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In memoriam: Wolfgang Sandner, ELI-DC director and laser scientist

10 December 2015

Wolfgang SandnerWolfgang Sandner, Director General of the Extreme Light Infrastructure Delivery Consortium (ELI-DC) International Association, died 5 December. He was 66.

"This is a big loss for our community," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Not only was he a top-notch scientist but he had remarkable international diplomatic and organizational skills. His work leading LaserLab Europe was a major contribution to advancing the laser, and his dedication to the success of the ambitious ELI was extraordinary. It is tragic that we lost him, and so soon after the opening of the beamlines."

An announcement from the ELI-DC General Assembly of the Members and the Management Board called Dr. Sandner's death a considerable loss for ELI as a whole, as well as for European science and science policy in general.

"In this sad moment, we all are now more determined than ever to create the necessary conditions for ELI to succeed in the European constellation of research infrastructures, thus transforming Wolfgang's dream into reality," the ELI-DC announcement said.

Born in 1949, in Teisendorf, Germany, Wolfgang Sandner studied physics and received his PhD at Freiburg University in 1979. He was a professor at Würzburg and Freiburg universities in Germany and at the University of Tennessee in the USA.

From 1993 to 2013, he served as Director at the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short-Pulse Spectroscopy, and as a Member of the Board of Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. From 1994 to 2014 he was professor of physics at Technische Universität Berlin.

Starting in 1993, Dr. Sandner particpated in many national and international science and of research policy organizations, particularly in the EU, as an advisor to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and as a member of scientific advisory boards of many research institutes.

From 2003 through 2013, he was coordinator of the LaserLab Europe, a project funded by the European Union Networkincluding 26 research institutions in 16 countries. Since 2014 he chaired the Association of European-level Research Infrastructure Facilities.

Dr. Sandner was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and served as president of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft DPG (German Physical Society) from 2010 to 2012. He served on several executive and advisory boards including the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung GmbH board of trustees, the Photonics21 board of stakeholders, and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance.

His areas of research included atomic physics, light-matter interaction at ultra-high intensities, relativistic laser plasma dynamics, laser particle acceleration, atomic and molecular ionization dynamics in strong and ultra-strong laser fields, development and application of short-pulse lasers of highest peak and average power, and laser-based UV- und X-ray sources.

Dr. Sandner authored more than 200 publications including numerous papers for SPIE. Recently, he had served on the steering committees for SPIE Optics + Optoelectronics 2015, and he had been scheduled to give a featured talk at SPIE Photonics Europe 2016.

He leaves behind a wife, son, and daughter, along with other family and many friends and colleagues who mourn his loss.