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Dr Laszlo Mercs

Previous job: Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Sally Brooker, University of Otago, New Zealand (July 2009-June 2010)

PhD: with Professor Martin Albrecht at Fribourg University, Switzerland (2004-2009)

Laszlo at his favorite local beach, Sandfly Beach (named as the sand flies in the wind, not because there are sandflies!)

I spent one year in Sally’s group as a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow from July 2009 to June 2010. In order to get the fellowship I had contacted Sally beforehand to ask whether she would accept me in her research group. Her quick and honest response and the friendly style she used made me clear immediately that it was a good decision to pursue the fellowship further and to join the “Brooker’s Bunch”.

My wife and I arrived in Dunedin in the middle of winter coming from European summer, but the excitement caused by the integration into a “new world” suppressed the inconvenience that arose from the sudden climate change. We spent the first three months in Abbey College, which belongs to the University of Otago and hosts many people from overseas. It gave us a unique chance to meet a lot of people in the same situation as us, and also to make friendships for life. Dunedin’s charm enslaved us quickly with its cosy atmosphere, friendly habitants and the richness of activities that the Otago region has to offer. Indeed, the dramatic and varied landscape and its biodiversity, among all, rank New Zealand a unique country, which is also home to a diverse range of extreme sports and adventure tourism.

My first meeting with Sally was delayed by a couple of weeks as she was away, on her annual mid-year trip “around the world” attending conferences and visiting collaborators and friends, for a few weeks. Even so, the launch of the project was not at all hampered thanks to the help of her keen and able group members. The well-equipped department with all its helpful members also ably supported efficient and quick work. Sally’s return to the department not only brought a boost in the scientific life with her open door policy, but also brought change in our private life. Namely, she found us accommodation that satisfied all of our needs, the flat being brand new and hence above normal New Zealand standards especially in regard to insulation. Moreover, she is always keen for a chat along with a delicious New Zealand coffee, be it about a discussion about the progress of the research, or the best vineyards in the Central Otago region. Thank you Sally!

It is worth mentioning the giant tearoom, also located in the department, which is an exceptional place for an easy chat, exchanging ideas or taking part in regular celebrations while enjoying Trish’s sandwiches, bakery products and pastries. Furthermore, the Chemistry Social Committee actively organises sport and cultural events (like staff vs. students or chemistry vs. physics department), all of which help bring the people inside and outside of the department together. I am convinced that it contributes to fruitful work in the department, as well as helping to establish interdisciplinary scientific collaborations.

The year my wife and I spent in New Zealand remains an extraordinary period in our life, and both of us are very grateful to all the people who contributed to this great memory. We only hope that we can return to this “piece of gem on Earth” sooner rather than later, and not only once in our lifetime!