Roelin Prize for Olaf Fischer

September 17, 2021

Olaf Fischer of Haus der Astronomie is the 2021 recipient of the Hanno and Ruth Roelin Prize for Science Outreach. The prize, which is awarded every two years by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Heidelberg (MPIA), honors scientists, science journalists, and academic teachers who have been particularly successful in communicating new findings in astronomy and space research to a broader public. Awards may also be given for achievements in astronomy education.

Fischer (*1958) studied physics and astronomy at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena from 1982 onwards. After receiving his diploma in 1987, he taught for one year at the special school for mathematics, natural sciences and technology in Leipzig. In 1992, he received his doctorate in Jena, with a thesis on the modeling of polarization in circumstellar dust envelopes. After years of research on star formation at the Heidelberg MPI for Astronomy and the Bonn MPI for Radio Astronomy, he returned to the FSU in Jena in 1997 to join the Physics and Astronomy Education Group. There, he gained extensive experience in working with pupils and groups of pupils, and in fostering gifted students within the framework of the Deutsche Schülerakademie; in 2003, he completed his habilitation thesis on "Models and Experiments - Bridges to Concepts and Findings in Astronomy".

A chance encounter with Jakob Staude, then editor-in-chief of the popular magazine Sterne und Weltraum, at the "Astrobux" event in Buxtehude in the fall of 2003, triggered a collaboration that resulted in the "Science in Schools" ("Wissenschaft in die Schulen", WIS) project. WIS makes current research topics covered in Sterne und Weltraumavailable for use in schools. The project was funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation from 2005 onwards, and was an important part of the activities on the Königstuhl that led to the establishment of Haus der Astronomie. Here, Olaf Fischer and the WIS project found a permanent home. Fischer, who was also began teaching as a Privatdozent at the University of Heidelberg in 2010, soon added to his responsibilities at Haus der Astronomie the supervision of student theses in physics and astronomy, as well as the implementation of numerous teacher training courses in Heidelberg as well as nationwide.

Jakob Staude, in his laudatory address on the occasion of the Roelin Prize ceremony, says: "With his tireless commitment to the practical side of astronomy education in schools, Olaf Fischer has made a lasting contribution to the establishment of our science in the German-speaking education system."

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