Stefan Grotzinger

Analyzing the potential of organisms

​​​Ph.D. student Stefan Grotzinger came to KAUST after completing his bachelor's and master's degrees in his native Germany because he "liked the idea of the adventure of being in Saudi Arabia, and also wanted to be part of a university that 'moves fast' and is developing into something great," he says.

Stefan works in the Biological & Organometallic Catalysis Laboratories, part of KAUST's Catalysis Center. He is part of a unique collaboration between KAUST and Technische Universität München (TUM) Germany, and is completing his PhD work under the supervision of both Prof. Dirk Weuster-Botz from TUM and KAUST Assistant Professor of Chemical Science Dr. Jörg Eppinger. "I love the fact that KAUST is connected to different universities all over the world," Stefan says.

In his research, Stefan focuses on analyzing the scientific and biotechnological potential of organisms from brine pools in the Red Sea. "I concentrate on expressing and characterizing proteins from the different brine pool organisms in the lab," he explains. "At the moment I'm the only person in the whole world who is working on these proteins, which adds some pressure but also a lot of excitement to my work. And there is a lot of freedom in research at KAUST, which is very helpful for my research."

He notes that his long-term goals are to succeed in his Ph.D. work, which he hopes will increase scientific insight into life at extreme conditions. By doing this, he may be able to develop new biocatalysts that can be used in the chemical industry to "enable reactions that chemists can only dream of at the moment," he explains.

Stefan knows the value of balancing his life in the lab with his personal life, and spends his free time at KAUST playing sports and playing the trombone in different orchestras and bands. "Getting my mind free from research is essential to coming up with new ideas," he says. "There are also many different community and student groups on campus that provide a broad variety of possible activities to suit nearly every taste."

KAUST has been a unique experience for Stefan because "it is a great place to learn about different cultures from all over the world," he says. "It is wonderful that KAUST connects the lives of people from such diverse backgrounds, and the environment of the University makes it easy for students to connect with professors and postdoctoral fellows, which helps tremendously in building up a scientific and career network. But most of all," he adds, "KAUST is a place which brings people of different cultures, backgrounds, and positions together to move science and Saudi Arabia forward."