TUM Alumni Wolfgang Domcke with students.

Also in his role as Emeritus Wolfgang Domcke is working full-time on highly topical research subjects with his research groups at TUM, for example in the area of renewable energies (Image: Private).

Alumni doing research
TUM Emeritus of Excellence Wolfgang Domcke
“My Life Is Governed by Science and Sports”
14. Jan 2019
Reading time Min.
For TUM Alumni Wolfgang Domcke no goal is too challenging, neither in the areas of Physics or Chemistry, nor in Sports. As an Emeritus he still conducts frontier research at TUM, unless he is out and about on his mountain bike.
Already as a child Wolfgang Domcke was interested in Natural Sciences, read a lot and, under lenient connivance of his parents, conducted chemical experiments in the basement. “I had made explosives pretty early on in order to see what happens”, the native of Munich remembers with a smirk. Having to decide for a degree programme after graduating from high school he picked Physics. “I felt Chemistry was too easy. And at that time the Physics department at TUM was just being established by Nobel Prize laureate Rudolf Mößbauer. Obviously this appealed to me.”

Science as a sport

Especially the clearly structured lectures by his two great academic teachers and role models, the later TUM president Wolfgang Wild, and his future doctoral supervisor Wolfgang Brenig, encouraged Wolfgang Domcke in his desire to understand the fundamental theoretical correlations. “I wanted to understand how nature works”, the passionate theorist remembers. In 1972 he completed his studies with a diploma thesis in the field of Theoretical Nuclear Physics, three years later his doctorate on questions from Solid-state and Molecular Physics. Wolfgang Domcke still remembers the highly competitive atmosphere of his university time: “I was quite comfortable with that because I saw this performance-oriented degree as a sport.”

Science and mountaineering are sports disciplines you have to take seriously.

Wolfgang Domcke

Having worked as a research assistant at TUM for one year Wolfgang Domcke became a research assistant at the University of Freiburg, where he did his post-doc in Theoretical Physics in 1979. After a DFG Research Fellowship at the renowned Caltech, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Wolfgang Domcke taught and did research in Heidelberg and Düsseldorf. Eventually in 1999 he was called to the Chair of Theoretical Chemistry at TUM, where he had already made ground-breaking contributions as an associate professor of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry for ten years. His work on the theoretical description of the dynamics of ultrafast photo-induced processes in polyatomic molecules made him one of the pioneers of Femtochemistry, which just came about at that time, and decisively contributed to a paradigm shift in this research area located on the borders of Theoretical Physics and Chemistry.

Sports to counterbalance Science

Aside from science mountaineering has also always been important to Wolfgang Domcke. Especially during the long time at TUM Wolfgang Domcke not only shared his knowledge on Theoretical Physics and Chemistry with his international students, post-docs and visiting academics, but having earned a mountain guide diploma from TUM, also his passion for mountaineering. He regularly took his working groups into the Bavarian Alps – even though not all members were able to follow the extreme mountaineer, who is used to challenging trips, up to the summit.

Since 2013 Wolfgang Domcke holds emeritus status. Apart from having added mountain biking to his sporting activities in addition to mountaineering, not much has changed.With his working groups in Garching he is still committed full-time to the two essential questions he stayed true to with unwavering interest: understanding ultra-fast processes in Chemistry and the highly relevant subject of photocatalytic splitting of water for the development of renewable energies. “I am very happy to be able to still conduct research at TUM as a theorist and to work as a consultant, as well, such as for the post-doc programme at TUM. I think it’s good that TUM is encouraging Emeriti of Excellence to continue to provide their expertise and thus inspire the young colleagues and relieve them a bit.”

TUM Alumni Wolfgang Domcke.

Wolfgang Domcke (Image: Astrid Eckert/TUM).

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Domcke

Degree Physics 1972, Doctorate 1975


After a diploma in Physics and a doctorate in Theoretical Physics at TUM Wolfgang Domcke received his habilitation in 1979 at the Department of Physics at Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg i. Br. In 1981 he went to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena as a DFG Research Fellow. Back in Germany he became professor of Theoretical Chemistry at Heidelberg University (1982-1986), followed by a professorship in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at TUM (1986-1996), as well as a professorship in Theoretical Chemistry at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf (1996-1999). From 1999 until his retirement in 2013 Wolfgang Domcke headed the Chair of Theoretical Chemistry at TUM.

Wolfgang Domcke is a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Additionally, he has been a long-time technical consultant of DFG and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. For his ground-breaking research in the field of Theoretical Chemistry and Physics he was honoured, inter alia, with the Commemorative Medal of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University Prague, the Copernicus Award of DFG and the Foundation for Polish Science, as well as with the honorary doctorate of Charles University in Prague.

Wolfgang Domcke is a passionate mountaineer, skier and mountain biker. He is married and father to three adult children. With their studies in Theoretical Physics and Biochemistry at TUM both his daughters follow in their father’s footsteps.

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Domcke was appointed TUM Emeritus of Excellence by TUM president Prof. Dr. Wolfgang A. Herrmann in Summer 2017.