PhD, Theoretical Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
Professor, Agricultural Faculty, University of Bonn
UNU Vice Rector in Europe
Director of UNU-EHS
Member of the Board of UNU-FTP Iceland
Co-lead of the UNU Priority Africa Initiative
UNU Focal Point for HLCP
Chair of the Forum of the Heads of UN Agencies in Bonn
Member of the Board of DKKV (German Committee for Disaster Reduction)
Member of the Advisory Board of the Swiss Civil Protection Agency
Member of the Steering Board NFP66 for the Swiss National Science Foundation
Member of the International Advisory Board for the Global Survivability Studies Programme of Kyoto University
Co-Chair of the Implementation Board for the Future Earth Decade Initiative
Representative of UNU in the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability
Prof. Rhyner joined the United Nations University in 2010. He holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich (part of his PhD was done in 1986 during a stay at the L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow, former Soviet Union). He is a professor at the Agricultural Faculty of the University of Bonn.
Starting 1988, he spent 13 years in industrial research (ABB Ltd). Among his main research topics were the application of superconductivity in electric networks and high voltage technologies for energy transmission.
The time at ABB was interrupted by a one year stay at the Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with research on superconductivity and quantum mechanics of mesoscopic systems, and by stays in an ABB factory in Sweden as a consulting engineer.
In 2001, he joined the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) Davos, belonging to the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL), which itself is a part of the ETH domain. At SLF, he was the head of the Division Avalanche Warning and Risk Management, responsible for the Swiss avalanche warning system, including forecast, measurement networks, education and training, process research and the development of risk management methodologies. Since 2005 he initiated the extension of the avalanche forecast and warning systems to alpine hydrological hazards. From 2006 he was the Head of SLF, and simultaneously a member of the Directorate of WSL.
He has been active in numerous professional organizations and boards, such as the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Expert Commission for Avalanches and Rockfall, the Group of European Avalanche Warning Systems or the German Committee for Disaster Reduction. In the FP research programmes of the European Commission he was active as a project coordinator and in programme evaluation committees. He is a member of the Transition Team for the Decade Initiative “Future Earth – Research for Global Sustainability”.