Getting to Know: Joerg Nikolaus

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Getting to Know is our blog series where we find out about what makes West Campus staff members tick. This week’s guest is Joerg Nikolaus, who joined the Nanobiology Institute in 2013 as a postdoc and then as associate research scientist. In 2019 Joerg was appointed Director of the Imaging Core, where he provides access to a collection of shared microscopes in support of research at Yale.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?

It felt good to get our power back late last week after it was knocked out by the recent storm! Other than that my neighbor is moving and has allowed us to take all the wood in his yard for firewood, which was a kind gesture.  

Where is your favorite place in the world?

I’ve been to different places, hot and cold, from Egypt to Iceland. Everywhere has a special something. But I’m most excited for the new places I’ve yet to explore. Alaska is on that list. I’d like to see bears fishing, and the vastness of that inspiring wilderness.

Favorite restaurant and favorite dish?

Chef Chris’ pulled pork on Thursdays is a good one! We love Bar Bouche in Madison because we went there when we got engaged. I like different kinds of food. I even started to appreciate certain shellfish!

Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?

Sailing on the North Sea, through the Baltic Sea to Norway and back to Germany, was a memorable experience. I sailed for ten days. Steering the boat under a star-lit sky was really incredible.

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?

I would love to build with wood, possibly wooden boats. I’ve never done it before but making my own boat then sailing it would be satisfying. I like the idea of working with natural materials. It would be quite different to the scholarly challenges I’m used to in our research environment. I recently took a wood turning class that was a wonderful experience. My great grandfather made wooden wagon wheels, and my grandfather was a mechanic, so perhaps I inherited this desire to work with my hands.

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now at Yale?

We’re trying to demo new microscopes, which is challenging during these trying times, but making new products available to researchers, and helping advance research, is wonderful to be involved in. It’s exciting to keep up with the latest research technology and pass that on to others.

Your favorite line from a movie?

There’s a scene in the Shawshank Redemption where the main character, Andy Dufresne, has been confined for two weeks but makes it through unscathed because he plays music in his mind. “That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you. You need it so you don’t forget…that there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. There’s something inside…that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.” I saw Tim Robbins, who played Dufresne, and his band in a small club in Berlin years ago!

What hot tip would you share with someone new to Yale?

I’ve experienced such a wide range of possibilities at Yale. We can all explore them, scientists, students, staff. You can go to lectures by Nobel laureates on many topics. Art and cultural possibilities are everywhere – from the galleries, museums, libraries, sports stadiums, music school, and right here on West Campus (okay, it may have helped that I’m married to a paintings conservator!) I’d say anyone can take advantage of what Yale has to offer. Perhaps in the end it’s meeting people from all over the world that is our greatest opportunity.

To nominate a staff member to be our next guest please drop a line to