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An unbroken fascination with chemistry

Robert Baumann grew up in Potsdam, Germany. At a very young age, he developed a strong interest in chemistry, leading him to study it at the University of Berlin and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he obtained his doctorate. He has worked at BASF for the past 25 years, holding various positions in research, process development, technology management, and production. He is currently the site manager of the BASF production site in Kaisten, Switzerland.

I came into contact with chemistry at a very young age. My father was a chemist, and I definitely caught the bug from him. At the age of 14, I started participating in chemistry competitions at the regional and then at the national level in order to represent my country – the German Democratic Republic at the time – at the International Chemistry Olympiads. And it was with great pride that I attended this event in 1990, only a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was 17 and that was my first trip to the Western world. It remains an incredible memory!

My participation in the Chemistry Olympiads certainly influenced my decision to pursue a degree in chemistry at the University of Berlin a few years later. Meeting young people from around the globe also taught me how important it is to learn foreign languages, so that we can communicate with each other. That is what led me to cross the Atlantic to pursue my doctorate in the United States, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Once I obtained my doctorate, I came back to Europe and joined BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Working for one of the largest companies within the chemical industry has been incredibly stimulating. It has given me the opportunity to contribute to a wide variety of fields, ranging from research to production, and including process development as well as technology management. I have been the site manager of the Kaisten site in Switzerland since 2022. This is one of the leading BASF sites for plastic additives. As the site manager, I work with highly competent colleagues and find great joy in successfully developing the site with my team.

After working for 25 years, my enthusiasm for chemistry is intact and I remain fascinated by how it enables us to both better understand the structures of the world around us and create something new, such as molecules or chemical reactions. Furthermore, I am convinced that chemistry is one of the solutions for creating a better, sustainable future! That is exactly what we’re working toward at BASF.

Since the 55th Chemistry Olympiads in Zurich are right around the corner, I would like to wish all the competitors good luck. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn as much as you can during the theoretical challenges, but also to talk with other participants and discover new cultures. And enjoy the wonderful country that is Switzerland!

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