Originally trained as Chemical-Technical Assistant, Karl-Heinz Ernst studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Berlin (TFH, now Beuth) and Chemistry at the Freie Universität Berlin. In his Diploma thesis (On the interaction of glycine with a platinum(111) surface) in 1985 he was the first (outside of Berkeley, California) to address the adsorption of biologically relevant molecules on single crystal surfaces in ultrahigh vacuum. He earned his PhD in Physical Chemistry by studying the adsorption of hydrogen on Co(10 -10) at the Berlin Electron Storage Ring for Synchrotron Radiation (Bessy I) and the Freie Universität Berlin. After a post-doctorate study at the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined in 1992 Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, where he established the Molecular Surface Science Group. He spent several research stays at Berkeley (Physics Dep.), Seattle (Bioengineering Dept.), Beijing (CAS-IOP) and IBM Almaden. Three years after his Habilitation at the University Zurich in 2007 he was appointed as UZH Titular professor. In 2014 he got promoted to Empa Distinguished Senior Scientist.