Annika Thies – European networker at DESY

Since June, legal expert Annika Thies heads the EU project office of the German Electron Synchrotron.

Trust, cooperation and autonomy of employees – these values are important to Annika Thies when leading her team. Since June of this year, she has headed the EU project office of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY), focusing on a “post-heroic leadership style” without micromanagement. The office supports scientists from application to accounting and final report. The first few months were hectic and time-consuming for the 49-year-old, but all in all, she says, it was a pleasant arrival. “I’m lucky to have a very fit and sympathetic team.”

Into the research landscape by coincidence

Time management is often challenging, but Annika Thies has experience with demanding tasks: Previously, she worked as a director in the Brussels office of the Helmholtz Association and as a legal expert for the European Commission. For the latter, the Flensburg native was involved, among other things, in setting up a separate legal form in the field of research infrastructures. She came to this specific area of law more by chance than anything else. At the beginning of her career, she says, a friend told her to apply for a job at the German Aerospace Center. “I thought it was great from the start because it’s not a classic legal job like lawyer, but with a strong international focus.”

She even specifically chose to study law in Trier because of the specialized foreign language training offered there. It was clear to her from the start that she wanted to work in the international field. What fascinates her most about law is how it can facilitate cooperation. Especially when it comes to European research collaboration. “When the rules are clearly negotiated and laid down, there are far fewer misunderstandings and collaborations run more smoothly.” Law, she says, is particularly helpful in finding that basis and putting it into a framework.

Promotion of European cooperation

One project that is particularly close to Annika Thies’ heart is LEAPS: League of European Accelerator-based-Photon Sources. This is an association of 16 European institutions leading in the field of synchrotron and free-electron lasers. The goals of the alliance are, among others, to promote research and to strengthen exchanges with organizations and stakeholders. This project was also one of the main reasons that appealed to the legal expert about the DESY job offer. “Because it’s very strategic here at the European level and has a director in Helmut Dosch who is himself strongly committed to European cooperation.”

At the DESY location in Hamburg, she particularly appreciates the international aspect, which reminds her a lot of Brussels. “The proximity to the water is a very big plus”. She has also decided to take a sailing course. She finds the necessary balance to her duties as director as a contralto singer in a choir or during a walk along the Elbe river. Kim Fischer


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