Andreas Zeller
On Research and Researchers

Software Engineering Chair (Prof. Zeller)
Saarland University – Computer Science
Saarland Informatics Campus
Campus E9 1 (CISPA)
66123 Saarbrücken, Germany
E-mail: zeller @
Phone: +49 681 302-70970

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   In November 2008, Stefan Gspandl of TU Graz sent me a questionnaire with a few personal (and a few non-personal) questions. Here's the answers I gave:

Personal Indicators

Let's start with a few personal questions:
How many languages do you speak?
Three fluent (English, French, German), four so-and-so (Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Latin).

Do you play any musical instruments?

Are you married / do you have children?
Yes and yes.

Are there problems to balance private and business life?

Do you paint / write?
No and yes.

What sports do you participate in?
Swimming, Jogging, Cycling

Daily Business

What does your daily business look like? What is your actual time distribution and what is - according to you - the ideal weight of these activities?
How much time of your day do you spend on active research?
15% actual, 25% ideal

How much time of your day do you spend on management activities?
25% actual, 5% ideal

How much time of your day do you spend on fund raising activities?
5% actual, 0% ideal

How much time of your day do you spend on teaching?
20% actual, 20% ideal

How much time of your day do you spend on supervising?
30% actual, 40% ideal

How much time of your day do you spend on presenting your ideas on conferences, and invited talks?
5% actual, 10% ideal

What are your strategies to minimize time effort for the less attractive parts of your daily business?
Delegating as much as I can.

On Researchers

Let's talk about researchers.
What do you think is the most important competence for researchers beside expertise?

Do you still spend time doing research yourself or is most of your work doing management tasks?
My students do most of the research work, but advising them is not something I'd call management.

Which (soft) skills are important to be a good researcher?
Creativity, Focusing, Persistence.

Do you plan your future (career) ahead, and are these plans more in the short or the long term?
Short term. I never planned my career further than six months.

What do you think is more important: intelligence or hard-working?
The whole point of intelligence is to get more work done in less time.

On Career

Now something about your personal career.
What do you think was the best decision made in your life regarding your career?
Doing something my advisor thought was crazy.

How important is money for you (personal and for your research)?
I don't worry about either.

Have you ever had a total new idea that changed the world?
My Wikipedia entry does not say so.

What are the main differences of being a researcher in industry and academia?
In academia, you have people; in industry, you have the reality.

What would you say to a student who wanted to shape his or her future with a career in science?
It's either fun or not worth it.

How important is the research topic for success?
Taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

On Loving What You Do

Finally - what is it that makes you tick?
What is the best part of the work you do - the part that gives you the most satisfaction? Conversely what is the downside of your work?
I like the balance between research, teaching, writing, talking, advising, hacking, and managing. The downside is the constant feeling of being overwhelmed.

What do you think it takes to be a good scientist?
Enthusiasm and the constant desire to give one's best.

Which core capabilities should a good university have?
A good team spirit. Everything else follows.

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Andreas Zeller <> · · Updated: 2009-09-21 17:51