TUM alumnus Prof. Winfried Petry with his successor Prof. Peter Mueller-Buschbaum in the neutron guide hall of the FRM II.

TUM Alumnus Prof. Winfried Petry with his successor Prof. Peter Mueller-Buschbaum inside of the FRM II. He is not only proud of 'his' FRM II, but also of successfully having passed his Physics degree at TUM back then, which was initially very difficult for him. (Image: Andreas Heddergott / TUM)

Alumni doing research
TUM Emeritus of Excellence Winfried Petry
“I Am Now a Tue-Wed-Thu Professor”
21. Jan 2019  |  
Reading time Min.
Whoever deals with neurons will come across his name: Winfried Petry. In October 2018 the alumnus and retired professor has been appointed TUM Emeritus of Excellence – a title that is honouring his lifetime achievements at TUM.
It has been more than 20 years since TUM Alumnus Winfried Petry started to take charge of the Research Reactor at TUM – since 2002 as its Director. At least since the Research Reactor II (FRM II), Germany’s only high-flux neutron source, was opened he also started to become known to the public. “Many a media person in Germany relishes being rubbed the wrong way by the word ‘nuclear’ technology. I have always enjoyed being the sand paper for this need for friction”, he says. To the press he explained the variety of possible uses and never tired of pointing out the substantial social benefit of neutron research for sustainable energy supply, future information storage materials or completely new applications in nuclear medicine. Today, the fact that he achieved the neutron source’s purpose and use not being questioned anymore, not even in the critical environment of the ‘Greens’, fills him with pride.

FRM II – a magnet for top scientists and guests

Even during the facilities’ construction phase Winfried Petry already initiated guided tours for interested visitors. Meanwhile about 3.500 people annually come to learn about how FRM II works. The opening to scientists from all over the world was clear to him from the very beginning. He is convinced: “A high-flux neutron source has to attract the best scientists because scientific excellence thrives on competition. The latter is not just rivalry but also cooperation and mutual stimulation.”

Scientific excellence thrives on competition.

Prof. Dr. Winfried Petry

For Winfried Petry the establishment of the neutron source and its management have been a time of great joy. “I enjoyed the freedom of shaping the scientific use of a major research centre.” Over these many years, his staff members and he have created something outstanding in Europe. He still vividly remembers the inauguration on the 9th of June 2004, to which many honorary guests came. Amongst them Karin Stoiber. “Ms Stoiber was highly interested in everything. Inside the FRM II there are walkways made of gratings, which would have been deadly for her heels. Without batting an eyelid she took off her shoes and followed my guided tour through the experimental hall in nylons.”

Work Life Balance as an Emeritus

Being asked if he misses his old job, considering the long period of service, he replies almost as expected: “Yes, a little bit but I am really holding myself back.” He is equally excited about the newfound free time. Meanwhile, four days a week are dedicated to his family – especially to his four grandchildren.

However, he cannot and does not want to let go completely. He now is a ‘Tue-Wed-Thu professor’, a professor who only shows up at the institute on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he smiles, “Actually this has a somewhat negative reputation. But I am hoping not in my case. As an Emeritus I am enjoying the newfound freedom of being at the FRM II only three days a week. Nonetheless, I do have considerably more time for my nine remaining doctoral students.”

TUM Alumnus Prof. Winfried Petry

Prof. Winfried Petry (Picture: Andreas Heddergott/TUM)

Prof. Dr. Winfried Petry

Diploma Physics 1976


Has studied Physics at TUM from 1970 until 1976. Subsequently, he obtained a doctorate degree from Hahn Meitner Institute at Freie Universität Berlin. Then ten years of learning at the renowned Institute Laue-Langevin, the European High Flux Reactor, followed. In 1992 he completed his postdoctoral teaching qualification (habilitation) at LMU Munich and was appointed professor at TUM.

In 1996 he was made Dean of the Physics Department. Between 2002 and 2018 he was the Scientific Director of the Heinz Maier Leibnitz Neutron Research Facility (FRM II), from 2011 until 2018 he was the Director of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum.

Professor Dr. Winfried Petry was appointed TUM Emeritus of Excellence by TUM president Prof. Dr. Wolfgang A. Herrmann in 2018.