Born on the 21st of January 1972 in the city of Aalen in southern Germany, I at first had no idea what to make of it all. And in spite of many questions being readily at hand (Why was every official building in Aalen that ugly and yet showing on many postcards? Why did the river Kocher change its colour with the days of the week, switching from purple to green and yellow?), it was not until I was about three that my interest in science became apparent. The question being under investigation was concerned with the rotating shapes behind that odd looking window, and the lesson I learned was, that they disappeared into a pool of soapy water and wet clothes once I opened the window. An interesting result though that seemed, the social outcome of that experiment led me to delay my studies until I was more advanced in knowledge. In the course of time I understood the colours of the river were due to a company called "Lindenfarb" and that the window belonged to a washing machine. I never understood, though, why rural cities seem to be proud of their ugliest buildings while owning many pretty ones.
In order to avoid this disquieting question I started studying physics at the university of Tuebingen on October 1991, deciding a struggle between science and literature in favour of science mainly because I thought the academic way to look at literature involved opening the window and letting it all flow out.
While going through the largely prescribed course of studies in physics I became aware of a growing interest into questions of epistemology and philosophy of science, or, to maintain the silly metaphor, more interested in the structure of the window than in the rotation of the lye and cloth.
In addition to courses in physics I attended seminars in logic and philosophy of science, but quickly came to the conclusion that there was little sense for me in trying to understand the mind without knowing how it worked physiologically. So I decided to see for my masters thesis in physics being concerned with neurophysiology as much as was possible for a physicist. As you may see from my application it was concerned with three dimensional kinematics of eye movements and the theoretical background of measurements of the latter.
While I was working on the thesis I was lucky to meet Dr. Tweed who being a mathematician and physiologist had the background I had come to think ideal for an understanding of the brain, and who offered the idea for a PhD project, that immediately fascinated me. For trying to approach the question of how the brain learns by asking theoretically how a relatively simple and well described substructure of the brain, the vestibulo-ocular-reflexes, achieves its plasticity, seems to me to be the most promising road to travel. And taking into account the inclusion of a real travel into the city of Toronto, my happiness increases even further.
For although Tuebingen is a really nice town nearly completely lacking ugly postcards showing monuments of cheapness, it also is a comparatively small town, and the prospect of living in an urban environment is a promising one. I only lived in a big city during two months of working in Frankfurt for the German satire magazine "Titanic" as a trainee in early 1999. I also was a trainee at the local newspaper in Tuebingen and co-editor of two books – but that probably is another story.
I hope and think that my past and present studies will enable me to become a competent neuroscientist; and I know that the experience in Toronto both with respect to personal as much as scientific aspects, will be an important step toward that goal.