Martin Kunz was born 1963 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. After school in the canton Appenzell Ausserroden he moved to the University of Bern where he studied earth sciences between 1983 and 1988 graduating with a diploma thesis in the group of Prof. Th. Armbruster entitled ‘Atomic displacement parameters of feldspars with variable Si/Al ordering’ and ‘Mineralogical and petrographic studies on the west slope of the Pizzo di Claro, Ticino, Switzerland’. He stayed at Bern in the same group for his PhD thesis (1989-1991) entitled ‘Cation ordering and polyhedral distortion: Experimental characterisation of Fe, Ti-rich crystals and theoretical simulations with ionic models’.
After his excellent thesis, the Swiss National Science Foundation awarded Martin Kunz a scholarship with Prof. Dr. I. David Brown, Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where his research was focussed on ‘Modelling of octahedral distortions using the bond-valence approach’. Subsequently, from 1993 to 1995, he moved to Prof. Dr. John B. Parise at the Center for High Pressure Research, SUNY Stony Brook, USA, to learn the basic principles of structural high-pressure research.
In 1995 the Paul Niggli Foundation awarded Martin Kunz the Paul Niggli medal, a prize given to outstanding Swiss mineral scientists below the age of 35 with a strong perspective for an academic career.
With his experience in high-pressure research he returned to Europe where he worked 1995-1997 as beamline scientist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility at Grenoble, France, with the task: ‘Building, commissioning and operation of the ID30 beamline’. In 1997 he accepted an Assistant Professor position at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he not only installed and operated a high-pressure X-ray laboratory but also supervised PhD students. In 2001 Martin Kunz was ready to accept a new challenge at the University of Basel and the Museum of Natural History, Basel, where he became responsible for the crystallography programme at the University and was also Curator at the museum. Soon Kunz noticed that his passion was active structural research in high-pressure mineralogy for which a museum and teaching position only offered limited time. Currently, Martin Kunz is Research Associate at the University of California, Berkeley where he continues high-pressure research applying synchrotron radiation.
For a proper appreciation of Martin Kunz’ personality one has to add that he is a versatile marathon-, mountain-, and cross country runner and skier but also an active musician. His sporty attitude is also reflected in his spirit of comradeship and research – he never gives up and tries to reach the aim as fast as possible. He is open to all new ideas and keeps up with the rapid development in the field of mineralogy and inorganic crystal chemistry. He needs the challenge and is not willing to rest –always a step forward towards new perspectives. His musical nature is reflected in science by sober-mindedness. He plays the leading trombone in a group where harmony is required. He published more than 40 papers in prestigious International Journals covering a large area of interests such as mineralogy, crystal chemistry, development of high-pressure diffraction equipment, phase transitions, and high-pressure mineralogy.
For the relevance and international dimension of his work Martin Kunz is a merited recipient of the EMU Excellence Research Medal for 2004.