Prof. Dr. Jakob Rhyner is the Vice-Rector for UNU in Europe and the Director of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).
As the only Vice-Rector outside of the UNU headquarters in Japan, Prof. Rhyner supports the worldwide institutional development of UNU, particularly in Europe and Africa.
In his role as the Director of UNU-EHS, Prof. Rhyner provides the strategic direction for all research and educational activities of the institute which is focused on risks and adaptation related to environmental hazards and global change. Particular attention is paid to a common view on disaster risk mitigation and sustainable development. The main geographic focus of UNU-EHS is placed on Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Under the leadership of Prof. Rhyner, UNU-EHS developed the first joint Master of Science degree programme, “Geography of Environmental Risks and Human Security”, which is offered together with the University of Bonn and had its first student intake in 2013. Prof. Rhyner also oversees the UNU-EHS PhD programme as well as academic seminars and summer courses.
Prof. Rhyner is a professor at the Agricultural Faculty of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn. He holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. As part of his PhD research, he was a visiting scientist with the L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow and later on a Postdoc at the Department of Physics of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to joining UNU in 2010, Prof. Rhyner served as the director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos, where he had previously acted as the institute’s head of the Avalanche Warning and Risk Management Division. At SLF, Prof. Rhyner was responsible for the Swiss avalanche warning system, including forecast, measurement networks, education, training, process research and the development of risk management methodologies. In 2005 he initiated the extension of the avalanche forecast and warning system to alpine hydrological hazards. During this time he was also a member of the Directorate of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL).
Prof. Rhyner began his professional career working in industrial research for ABB Ltd, focusing on the application of superconductivity in electric networks and high voltage technologies for energy transmission.
A national of Switzerland, Prof. Rhyner speaks fluent English, German, French and advanced Swedish and Norwegian.