Our notion of a hero is usually a person who is admired for having done something brave or having achieved something great. To set up remote working, meeting and teaching solutions for more than 40,000 students and employees of Heidelberg University at an unprecedented pace definitely falls into that category. Reason enough for the founders of the initiative „Heidelberger Helden“ to nominate Professor Vincent Heuveline as one of 108 Heidelberg citizens, who have achieved something special during the ongoing pandemic.
In mid-March, Heuveline, who as Chief Information Officer (CIO) also leads the University’s computing centre (URZ) and an associated research group at HITS, was suddenly confronted with an extraordinary situation: a large number of digital services, such as video conferencing systems or messenger services, had to be developed in no time at all before the beginning of the summer semester. In addition, solutions for remote working had to be found which comply with data protection standards.
Heuveline and his 120-strong team at the URZ rolled up their sleeves and developed everything more or less from scratch. For several months they worked around the clock and achieved the ‚almost impossible‘: In time for the summer semester they provided a technical infrastructure, which can be regarded as a milestone. And although life at the URZ has returned to some sort of normalcy in the meantime, the team is still working hard on developing new technical solutions for virtual conferences and events. For the coronavirus has turned life upside down – not only at the university.
The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.