The TN Faculty at the JKU is pleased to welcome eight new faculty members and give them an opportunity to tell you a little about themselves. Today we spoke to Mario Waser.
Born in Steyr in 1977, Prof. Mario Waser is a professor at the Institute of Organic Chemistry. He talks a little about why he is a bit nerdy and why students in his lab can look forward to listening to great music.
Why did you choose the JKU?
Mario Waser: As a native of Upper Austria, being in a position to pursue an academic career close to family is, of course, very attractive for personal reasons. If a university – like the JKU - has good facilities and a good infrastructure combined with a supportive and friendly employee environment (particularly to interact with students), then it’s a great opportunity. In addition, Prof. Müller has been my mentor, giving me lots of freedom and always fully supporting my scientific and academic independence, especially since starting an independent career. As a result, right from the start I had an opportunity to properly set up my own research group and I am still getting a lot out it in my new position. Thank you, Norbert, as well the entire Institute of Organic Chemistry!
What is your area of research?
Mario Waser: Our main area of research focuses on developing new asymmetric synthesis methods and catalysts as well as developing techniques to control the three-dimensional structure of small organic molecules and to build them effectively and cost-efficiently.
What do you find particularly fascinating about this area?
Mario Waser: Each and every reaction, no matter how simple, has element of surprise and shows us constantly just how much we still don’t understand about the world around us and just how important conducting solid, base-knowledge research is. I would also assume the majority of my colleagues in completely different fields would also say the same thing.
Which are you currently working on?
Mario Waser: At the moment, we are working extensively on developing methods to synthesize fluorinated amino acids. This could lead to new non-natural amino acids and peptides that possess potentially interesting biological properties.
Why is this kind of research even necessary, meaning how will it improve our lives?
Mario Waser: First and foremost, base-knowledge research is what gives us new insight into synthesizing molecules. In the long run, the type of chemistry we study is particularly important for more advanced and complex synthetic chemistry, such as in pharmaceutical or agrochemical development. Developing new asymmetric processes helps in efficiently producing active ingredients in a more targeted manner.
Why should students take your classes?
Mario Waser: Maybe you should ask the students! But if I had to guess, it’s because we play (mostly) really good music in our labs. When I was a student, the best time was spending a good part of the day with motivated colleagues and “cooking” in the lab while playing the guitar loudly. It may sound a bit nerdy but I still think it’s true today.
Which are your hobbies?
Mario Waser: Traveling, food, music - just passive things really, everything else doesn’t really matter. And some sports, as long as I don't hurt myself again.
Is there anything else you still want to do or learn in particular?
Mario Waser: Scientifically speaking, establish the research group as a serious, hopefully innovative and productive group, in the organic chemistry community. Personally, all the above-mentioned hobbies to the power of two - that should be enough for the rest of my life, considering the incredible diversity our planet offers.