I'm a scientist,
and I'm a big fan of Star Trek,
especially of Mr. Spock.
Mr. Spock is a scientist as well,
and at the same time,
he's the first [officer]
of the starship Enterprise,
and during the adventures
of the Enterprise crew,
he and his colleagues are dealing a lot
with the presence or absence
of Mr. Spock's emotions.
Mr. Spock is half-human and half-Vulcan,
and Vulcans are an alien race
who learn to control
and suppress their feelings
and to act purely out of logic.
As Mr. Spock is only half-Vulcan,
he sees himself constantly in conflict
in between logic and emotions,
and as he's part of a team,
the whole crew is struggling with,
and is making fun of this conflict.
And also the fans of Star Trek
watch with amusement
this seemingly contradictory behavior.
They find it quite fascinating.
And the matter is a golden thread
through the whole Star Trek series
and movies from the '60s until today.
And that's actually
what I want to talk about today:
the role of emotions in science.
We tend to think that science
is all about facts and logic
and human feelings are often neglected
or considered an obstacle to get rid of.
I would like to suggest that emotions
are as important in science
as they are in any other part
of our lives.
Science is made by humans,
and as human beings,
even if we try hard,
we cannot get rid of our emotions.
So instead of fighting them,
I believe that even in science,
we should make use of our feelings,
because for breakthroughs and innovation,
they are equally important
as facts and logic.
I will come back to Mr. Spock,
but first let me share my experience
on the role of emotions in science,
and one story in particular
kept me thinking about it
for the last couple of years.
I'm working in research
on organic light-emitting diodes,
This is how you might know them,
as new generation of displays.
OLEDs are more and more used
in smartphone displays and TV screens.
They make them appear bright,
truly colorful and bendable.
This is how they look like
in the research lab
of my physicist colleagues.
And this is what I, as a chemist,
have in mind when I think about them.
I've loved it ever since
I started to work on it.
So I didn't really like the news
when the company I had been working for --
that was my previous employer --
announced that they wanted
to stop OLED research.
At the time, the management
had reasons for this decision,
and the company handled it
very well, actually.
Nobody lost their jobs,
and everybody was rewarded
for their performed work.
What I want to show you today
is what happened
with my scientist colleagues and me
during the time in between
and the last working day on our project.
Consider it a small case study
on emotions in science.
In 2015, our research team
had grown to more than 80 people,
and even after the announcement
that our project was discontinued,
we could not stop working
from one day to another.
It took several months
to bring all activities to a sound end
and to find new jobs
within the company for everyone.
Here's what happened.
Even though we knew
that we were working on a project
that was to be stopped,
during those months
our output hit the roof.
We were actually working
on two different OLED projects:
first, the development of materials
for blue-shining OLEDs,
which had started in 2001;
and second, materials for green OLEDs,
which had started in 2014.
And the results I show you here
concern the green OLED project.
In the graph, you can see
how the lifetime,
which is a crucial measure
for the durability of our devices,
developed over time.
In 2015, just half a year
into the project,
we were told to scale down,
to stop working on the project
as soon as possible
and to start over in other jobs.
Nevertheless, from this time on,
our results continued to improve rapidly.
How did that happen?
After the announcement, pretty quickly,
colleagues started leaving the team,
and soon, we were left in a small group,
all pretty much sharing
the same attitude of,
"I'm going to be the last person
leaving the ship."
What I mean is,
while the number of scientists
working on the project was decreasing,
the dedication of people remaining
And also, a new and more intense
team spirit formed.
We all shared the same
passion for our work,
we all were sad that it was about to end,
and we all wanted to show
that we could turn our ideas into reality.
We felt that we belonged
to something bigger.
our project was less and less
in the focus of the management,
because they started
to think about new projects,
restructuring and so on.
This resulted in additional freedom
and the possibility to take
a few things into our own hands.
Of course, more freedom
also means more responsibility,
which we were happy to take,
because we believed in our work.
We felt empowered.
And these three pillars --
dedication, belonging and empowerment --
worked together in a kind
of self-reinforcing cycle,
and the closer we got to shutdown,
the better our output became.
So we were working
with such personal engagement
on a project already sentenced to death
because we felt connected
to something meaningful.
Of course, it was also a hard
and sometimes frustrating time,
but we were sitting together in the lab,
or occasionally in the café,
sharing our sadness
about the end of our project
as well as the joy in our work.
So overall, we had a very intense
and mesmerizingly exciting time.
And the lifetime we finally obtained
for our materials
was on one level with already
for green OLEDs at the time,
and we achieved this within just one year.
And those results helped our employer
to sell the patents for real value.
Now, let me tell you the same story
with different characters
and a slightly different operation.
The story is part of Star Trek.
And sorry for those of you
who haven't seen the movies,
but I need to introduce a spoiler here.
After Mr. Spock sacrificed himself
to save the starship Enterprise
at the end of Star Trek II,
Captain Kirk and his core team
were determined to hunt
through the universe to search for Spock,
even though they could see
only very little chance
in finding him alive.
And Starfleet Command
did not give them permission
nor a starship to do so,
so they took it very passionately
into their own hands
to travel out to find Spock.
And after dealing with great challenges,
they eventually found Spock,
and he happily and gratefully
joined the team again.
He could feel the dedication
and the connection of his team
towards their project,
which was to save him
and to hold the crew together.
And over the years,
over the episodes of the saga,
Mr. Spock came to realize
that the combination
of both logic and emotions
is crucial for facing challenges
and exploring new worlds,
and there was no contradiction anymore.
So the storyline here
for both our OLED story and Star Trek
is actually the basic setting
for a lot of breakthrough stories,
in and out of science.
The main characters
are all part of a great team.
All team members show a huge dedication
towards reaching their goal.
They strive to seize
all the freedom they can get,
and they take the responsibility
they need to take.
During the time our OLED project
was nearing the end,
I received one piece of advice
"Don't take it to your heart.
You can work on something else."
If I had followed it,
it would have saved me
several depressed evenings
and many tears,
but at the same time,
I would have failed to gain a great deal
in personal development and happiness.
And as the same is true
for my colleagues and our whole project,
we would have achieved far less.
So of course, science
should be based on facts and logic.
When I say we should use
our emotions in science,
I do not suggest we should use
feelings instead of facts.
But I say we should not be afraid
of using our feelings
to implement and to catalyze
fact-based science and innovation.
Emotions and logic
do not oppose each other.
They complement each other,
and they reinforce each other.
The feeling of being dedicated
to something meaningful,
of belonging to something bigger
and of being empowered
is crucial for creativity and innovation.
Whatever you are working on,
make sure that it matters,
and take it to your heart
as much as you like.