Research for nuclear arms control

TU Darmstadt and PRIF establish Professorship for Peace Research in Natural Sciences


Professor Malte Göttsche is to take over the newly-created Professorship for Peace Research in Natural Sciences in June 2024. It is being set up jointly by TU Darmstadt and the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) as part of the joint project “Cluster for Natural and Technical Science Arms Control Research” (CNTR), and is initially being funded by the Federal Foreign Office. With the appointment of Malte Göttsche, PRIF and TU Darmstadt are contributing to the strengthening of scientific and technical peace research in Hesse.

Professor Dr. Malte Göttsche

Nuclear arms control, verification and disarmament require physical expertise; changing political circumstances and new technologies bring new challenges. At the same time, technological developments offer great potential for improving arms control, for instance with new detector systems. The Professorship for Peace Research in Natural Sciences is being set up at the Department of Physics of the Technical University of Darmstadt and filled by Malte Göttsche in order to strengthen basic research and policy advice in this area. At the same time, the research Group “Science for Nuclear Diplomacy” is being established at PRIF, which is located within the CNTR project and is headed by Göttsche. This will expand the interdisciplinary research and cooperation between the TU and non-university research institutions, while at the same time creating career opportunities for early career researchers.

Strengthening scientific conflict and peace research

Professor Malte Göttsche and TU President Professor Tanja Brühl
Professor Malte Göttsche and TU President Professor Tanja Brühl

“With the establishment of the Professorship for Peace Research in Natural Science, we are implementing a recommendation made in 2019 by the German Council of Science and Humanities to strengthen scientific conflict and peace research in Germany,” says TU President Professor Tanja Brühl. “Thus we are building on a tradition of interdisciplinary peace and conflict research in the Rhine-Main region. I firmly believe that with regard to nuclear arms control, Malte Göttsche’s innovative research will provide excellent developments in this field. I am delighted that we are able to deepen and strengthen the cooperation with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt as a non-university partner of our university. Many thanks to all our colleagues who made the establishment of this professorship possible and who accompanied it!”

“We are extremely pleased that we have been able to gain a proven expert in Malte Göttsche,” says Professor Christopher Daase, Deputy Director of the Frankfurt-based institute and Speaker of the CNTR project. “With this joint appointment, we are strengthening the cooperation with TU Darmstadt, which is essential for our interdisciplinary research.” The new professorship also strengthens the Master’s degree programme in International Studies / Peace and Conflict Studies, which is offered together with Goethe University Frankfurt as part of the strategic alliance of the Rhine-Main universities.

About the person

Professor Dr. Malte Göttsche will remain Assistant Professor of Nuclear Verification and Disarmament at RWTH Aachen University until the end of May. There he heads the BMBF-funded joint project VeSPoTec, which conducts interdisciplinary research on verification and nuclear arms control. Work on this project is also to be continued in Darmstadt and Frankfurt. Prior to this, he was a research associate at Princeton University. With his research into nuclear archaeology – funded in Aachen by a Freigeist Fellowship of the Volkswagen Foundation – he has made a significant contribution to the further development of verification methods. This innovative approach helps to establish whether a country has actually declared its entire stockpiles of weapons-grade material. Malte Göttsche was awarded the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2022. He participated in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings 2019 and was a member of Junges Kolleg of the NRW Academy of Sciences and Arts.


It started with IANUS

With the newly appointed professorship, TU Darmstadt is continuing its special tradition of high-profile peace research in the natural sciences and engineering. It goes back to the “Interdisciplinary Working Group on Science, Technology and Security” (IANUS), which has existed since the 1980s.

At the time, TU scientists from the fields of physics, biology, economics and mathematics took the initiative for a project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. In the years that followed, the researchers achieved a high level of recognition and were honoured with the Göttingen Peace Prize in 2000. IANUS is now part of the “Forum for Interdisciplinary Research” (FiF). The Professorship for Science and Technology for Peace and Security (Computer Science) and the new Professorship for Scientific Peace Research, now established in the Department of Physics, are responsible for the content.

Inaugural lecture on 28 June 2024 from 14:00 to 15:30 p.m.

ZKS-Uhrturmhörsaal S2|08, Room 171
Hochschulstraße 4, 64289 Darmstadt

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the threat of nuclear weapons use has re-emerged in the public debate. Today, there exist over 12,000 nuclear weapons globally, and large fissile material stocks allowing the production of many more. While the war and the political climate will not allow disarmament initiatives in the foreseeable future, the public debate has triggered a new sense of urgency.

Physicists have an important role: To enable international agreements on warhead and fissile material reductions, strong verification protocols are essential to monitor compliance. New concepts and techniques will be required and must be available should a political window of opportunity open in the longer term. As they can take many years to develop, continuing this work remains crucial today.

In his inaugural lecture at the Department of Physics, Professor Götsche will present elements of a possible verification toolbox. Among them are radiation detection techniques to establish the authenticity of nuclear warheads to be dismantled. Furthermore, nuclear archaeology is introduced as a toolbox to estimate weapons-usable fissile materials inventories based on reconstructing their past production using forensic measurements and computational science.

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