Fascination for enzymes

He draws energy from a "joyful occupation" with enzymes. TU Graz biotechnologist Bernd Nidetzky talks about catalysts as a vocation and the window of opportunity in his career as a researcher.

middle-aged man in front of biotechnology building of TU Graz

TU Graz researcher Bernd Nidetzky found his way via chemistry to biotechnology, a dynamic field of research that continues to fascinate him to this day. © Lunghammer – TU Graz

News+Stories: What motivates you most in your field of work?

Bernd Nidetzky: I’ve had a career-long fascination for enzymes. I often ask myself how enzymes manage to be such fantastic catalysts. By definition, catalysts are substances that influence the speed of a chemical reaction without themselves being consumed. I am trying to understand how they work and at the same time have a great interest in exploring how they can be used for industrial applications. Anyone who, like me, comes from the field of chemistry and is familiar with chemical catalysis is fascinated by how efficiently and well enzymes can sometimes bring about reactions. And the question is: how do they do it? This basic fascination has remained with me since my doctoral thesis, in which I dealt with enzymes. It arises from a joyful occupation with a scientific subject. At some point you find the topic that suits you best – and you follow that up.

Anyone who, like me, comes from the field of chemistry and is familiar with chemical catalysis is fascinated by how efficiently and well enzymes can sometimes bring about reactions

You habilitated at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences ( BOKU), Vienna, after studying chemistry at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). Then you took up a professorship at TU Graz. What drew you back to Graz?

Bernd Nidetzky:For someone who wants to become a university professor, an advertised professorship is an important window of opportunity. I was lucky at that time that there was this window at TU Graz. On the other hand, I knew TU Graz from the time of my studies with all the possibilities at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, where I work today, and in the broadest sense at the Faculty of Technical Chemistry, Process Engineering and Biotechnology. And Graz is – something that many people who come from outside don't know – a fantastic university location and a great city to live in.

Switch to the Face to face interview with Bernd Nidetzky in the TU Graz News+Stories zu learn, which ongoing projects are particularly important to him in the field of industrial biotechnology and where he gets the energy for his fulfilled professional everyday life from.