Database Systems and Information Management

An Interview with Prof. Dr. Tilmann Rabl

"DIMA has great visibility in the database community, not just in Germany, but also around the world. This makes building a strong network much easier."

Tilmann Rabl held a senior researcher and visiting professor position at DIMA from 2015 until 2019. Afterwards, he accepted a professorship at the Hasso Plattner Institut.

How did you first learn about DIMA? What was your initial impression?

I first met DIMA researchers at VLDB 2009 in Lyon, France. I was impressed by their publications at the main conference and had interesting conversations on technical topics with them. Over the years, I had on and off contact with them. I first met Volker Markl in Toronto, where I was a Postdoc at the time. The research conducted at DIMA was always very close to my own research topics, which made it easy for me to integrate into the group.

How would you characterize your experience while working at DIMA, particularly, with respect to your research and teaching activities? What were some highlights?

At DIMA, I was able to work on interesting and relevant topics in big data management and learned to coordinate and manage big research projects, such as the Berlin Big Data Center. Over the four years that I spent at TU Berlin, we were able to publish papers in all of the top database systems conference venues. One of my personal highlights was helping many PhD students and Postdocs succeed in their work.

How has DIMA helped you to advance your career?

DIMA has great visibility in the database community, not just in Germany, but also around the world. This makes building a strong network much easier. At DIMA, I also learned to understand some of the particularities of the German university and research system. All of the lessons I learned for sure helped me to secure a professorship at the Hasso Plattner Institute and the University of Potsdam.

Now that you will be joining the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam, what would you like to accomplish next?

First, I want to establish my own group. Given that I will contribute to a newly established Master’s program and setup a completely new group, this will probably consume all of my time over the next couple of months. In research, I want to place a strong emphasis on basic research in database management related topics. I am also looking forward to dedicating a significant part of my research to current societal challenges.

Given your international academic experience, how would you distinguish DIMA from other research groups?

DIMA is a large German research group with high international visibility. DIMA has a very dedicated focus on high impact research, which I mainly know from strong North American groups, but is much larger than most of these groups. There is a good group spirit and people are happy to be part of a large team. As a member, I was able to experience all areas of academic work, from teaching to administration, more so than in international groups.


You can learn more about Tilmann at