Moves & Milestones

Bridges vol. 42, December 2014 / Moves and Milestones 

BRIDGES presents career steps and other outstanding events in the professional lives of Austrian scientists and scholars in the US and Canada.

Alex Bäcker

won the Gold Stevie for Best Computer Services Company at the 2014 American Business Awards for the second year in a row with his company QLess; Bäcker is the CEO and founder of the program. More than 25 million users use QLess to wait for services however and wherever they choose, holding their spot in line with a mobile phone, and decreasing their perceived wait time with the addition of a customer-service differentiator. Follow him on Twitter @abacker.





Charles F. Dunkl

recently co-authored with Yuan Xu the second edition of "Orthogonal Polynomials of Several Variables" in the Encyclopedia of Mathematics and its Applications series (#155), published by Cambridge University Press. Dunkl is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and Xu is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oregon. Dunkl was born in Vienna in 1941, earned the B.Sc. and M.A. degrees at the University of Toronto and the Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has published around 100 research articles and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK).          


Gerhard Eschelbeck

joined Google as vice president of security engineering. Over the past decade, he has been transforming traditional security technologies and delivering them as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, leveraging cloud computing architectures and subscription business models. Follow him on Twitter @geschelbeck. 






Oliver P. Hauser

recently published a letter in Nature, titled "Cooperating with the future" (Nature 511, 220-223, 2014) along with David G. Rand, Alexander Peysakhovich, and Martin A. Nowak. The paper finds high levels of cooperativeness in an intergenerational social dilemma and demonstrates that intergenerational cooperation can be leveraged using democratic voting. The paper received widespread media attention in popular outlets such as Nature News & Views, Boston GlobeHuffington Postbild der wissenschaft, and Nature turned the paper into a 5-minute video on handing on a sustainable future. Hauser is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University. Follow him on Twitter @ophauser.




Verena Kleinrath

was awarded the €20,000 L' ORÉAL Austria Fellowship “For Women in Science.” Kleinrath has been working in the US for four years pursuing Ph.D. studies in nuclear physics and is currently stationed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. She is involved in a large collaboration developing a novel instrument for nuclear physics – a fission-time projection chamber. In Los Alamos, Kleinrath coordinates the experimental effort to commission the detector system in-neutron-beam and investigates fundamental fission physics. For her doctoral dissertation, she is researching the angular distribution of fission fragments – a window into the dynamic quantum process of fission.






Bernhard Klingenberg

started a one-year sabbatical at TU Graz in Austria, where he will be teaching a course in categorical data analysis. Klingenberg is on leave from Williams College, where he is an associate professor of statistics. During his leave, he will finish coauthoring the 4th edition of the introductory statistics book Statistics: The Art and Science of Learning from Data (Pearson), will continue his research in biostatistical methodology, and hopes to spend more time on programming interactive web-apps that explain statistical concepts (view sample).




Josef Koller

is now on assignment to the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy. He serves as a thought leader and a senior staff analyst responsible for providing technical advice and analyzing space-related United States government and DoD policy matters from the perspective of US national security and foreign policy goals. His emphasis is on policy formulation, implementation, development, and coordinating proposed positions, plans, and policies that are considered at the highest levels of the US government. He directly supports key international strategy efforts in order to fully implement the President's National Space Policy and the Secretary's National Security Space Strategy.





Arnold Leitner

is now the CEO of YouSolar, Inc. YouSolar is Leitner's third start-up in the solar sector, after SkyFuel ( and ReflecTech ( YouSolar is developing residential and small commercial power systems that combine solar photovoltaic arrays with lithium-ion battery storage. The system is responsible for helping customers with unreliable grids; the initial market for the products is India.






Michaela Mathews

published a new article on the topic of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) with Yan Guo, Patricia Langenberg, and Steven Bernstein. Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) has been shown to protect retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in traumatic optic nerve injury. The researchers found that CNTF exerts a neuroprotective effect in ischaemic optic nerve injury and promotes RGC survival, which suggests that CNTF may be effective in the clinical treatment of a loss of blood flow to a human’s optic nerves. Dr. Michaela Mathews is currently in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.






Dietmar Offenhuber

won the 2014 Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Offenhuber is an assistant professor at Northeastern University in the Departments of Art + Design and Public Policy. He holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from MIT, a M.S. in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Lab, and a Dipl. Ing. in architecture from the Technical University Vienna. See his Bridges introduction here. 






Peter Palese

was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Palese is a professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Among other recent honors, Dr. Palese is a member of The National Academy of Science and member of the Institute of Medicine; he has received the Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award and the European Virology Award from the European Society for Virology.





Petra Riefler

has been in the US on a Fulbright Visiting Scholarship (September-November 2014) at UNC, Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School. Before and after this visit, she held an assistant professor position at the University of Vienna.        






Julia M. Puaschunder

received a Prize Fellowship of the Interuniversity-Consortium of New York in combination with a Presidential Fellowship from the New School for Social Research.  In the New School Department of Economics, Puaschunder is currently designing the first International Macroeconomic Intergenerational Transfer Model comprising economic, environmental, and social facets under the guidance of heterodox economists. Additional information on Ms. Puaschunder's research can be found on both her project and homepage






Robert H. Schiestl

was voted Best Pathologist and Cancer Researcher of the year 2014 by Who is Who among 1200 pathologists. Earlier in 2014, Schiestl also released a report finding that genetic damage caused by asthma is also found in the circulating blood stream. Schiestl is a professor of pathology and radiation oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of environmental health sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA. Follow him on Twitter @rschiestl1.





Dennis Svatunek

will be working from August 1, 2014, to January 31, 2015, at the University of Delaware in the research group of Prof. Joseph M. Fox. The activities he participates in there will contribute to his dissertation at the University of Vienna in the area of ​​organic and analytical chemistry. Follow him on Twitter @Carbonate.







Konstantin Wacker

will take a position as an assistant professor (W1–"Juniorprofessur") for the Chair of International Economics at the University of Mainz in April 2015. He is currently an economist at the World Bank in Washington, DC, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Göttingen. His research focuses on international macroeconomics, with an emphasis on emerging economies and development.





Gernot Wagner

is releasing his second English book in spring 2015: Climate Shock, written jointly with famed Harvard economist Martin Weitzman. The book explores the likely repercussions of a hotter planet, drawing on and expanding from work previously unavailable to general audiences. Wagner is a lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, where he co-leads the office of economic policy and analysis to advocate for market-based solutions to a wide range of environmental problems. Follow him on Twitter @GernotWagner. 






Andreas Wendel

started working for Google[x] as a robotics researcher on the Self-Driving Car Team in Mountain View, California, in August 2013. Since then, he has won the University Research Award of the Austrian Industries in Styria 2013 and was awarded his Ph.D. sub auspiciis Praesidentis in June 2014. Wendel was recently named Austrian Innovator of the Year by futurezone, which called him “one of the masterminds of the self-driving cars from Google.”






Marius Wernig

was awarded the Robertson Stem Cell Prize by The New York Stem Cell Foundation. The prize, which has been given annually since 2011, recognizes extraordinary achievements in translational stem cell research by a young scientist. Recipients receive a $200,000 stipend to support their research. Wernig was the first researcher to demonstrate that human skin cells can be converted directly into neurons by adding just four signaling molecules. 






Hubert Zajicek

currently CEO of Health Wildcatters, was selected by Dallas' Top 25 “Who's Who in Healthcare” by the Dallas Business JournalHe won Dallas' Tech Titans Award after his company invested $400,000 in local start-ups on the edge of healthcare innovation in 2013. This also led him to be the winner of D CEO’s Achievement In Healthcare Innovation in 2014. This year he also finished his term as president of ASciNA. Follow him on Twitter @HubertZajicek.






Ernst Zinner

will retire as research professor of physics and earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where he has worked since 1972. He has conducted research on cosmic rays, lunar rocks, meteorites, and interplanetary dust particles, but is best known for the discovery and detailed study of so-called presolar grains. These grains condensed in the expanding atmosphere of stars and the ejecta of stellar explosions and were preserved in primitive meteorites. Their study provides information about production of the elements in stars.







Patrick Zoder

recently started as a biosample operations manager at Genentech, part of the Roche group. As a member of the Oncology Biomarker Development group he oversees all clinical study biosamples, as well as vendor management. He previously worked as a senior scientist at Pall Corporation and Life Technologies, developing novel molecular diagnostic assays and kits for rapid bacterial identification.