The Divers Alert Network recently announced the selection of Frauke Tillmans as the organization’s newest Research Director.
Tillmans most recently worked at the German Naval Medical Institute, where she was a research associate and project manager in the Experimental Medicine Section. At DAN, Tillmans will work to promote personalized research-based dive safety strategies.
Tillmans did her first dives in 2007 at the bottom of a muddy lake in northern Germany to become a scientific diver. While the cold, murky water may not have been the most exciting environment, she credits it with helping her develop “a good sense of safety and risk mitigation under and above water.”
The classroom portion of her training also served Tillmans well. According to her:
“During the theoretical classes, I found the medical background most fascinating, and I started teaching and assisting in the pool training session the year after.”
Once she finished her Master’s degree, Tillmans took a break from research in genetics and neuroscience, working as an EMT and assistant trainer for the scientific diving program at her university. This led her to becoming a dive instructor in 2010, and she has since earned instructor certifications from multiple training agencies, according to the DAN announcement.
While attending a conference she had a chance to visit the Hydra 2000, a German Navy hyperbaric chamber in Kiel, and after chatting with one of the facility’s physicians, she was inspired to apply for an internship. From there she began her research career at the intersection of her scientific interests and personal passions: dive physiology and hyperbaric medicine.
Tillmans’ research above and below the surface earned her a Marie Curie Fellowship, and she has co-authored numerous journal articles, all focusing on dive-related or dive-adjacent physiological conditions. Some of her most notable research endeavors were physiology studies, and many focused on cellular or molecular biological reactions to different gas exposures in the hyperbaric environment. Her most recent research projects with the German Navy examined the response of bone and lung tissue following hyperbaric oxygenation, hyperoxia and immune responses in athletes and navy divers, and the effects of seasickness on performance.
Below the surface, Tillmans’ decompression and physiological studies are relevant to both recreational and technical diving; a recent example is her work to identify and observe the narcotic effects of air and trimix in deep cold-water environments. Her contributions in training numerous scientific divers are made apparent with every dive these researchers make, DAN said.
Tillmans’ commitment to safety isn’t just limited to her work in the lab and career as a dive professional. She’s an active volunteer fire fighter and enjoys endurance, yoga and self-defense training as well as scuba diving, according to DAN.