Prague (Czech Republic)
July 24 - 28, 2014
For the fifth student seminar of the MAINZ Graduate School we went to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. After a bus ride from Kaiserslautern over Mainz we arrived in Prague, on Thursday afternoon. After lunch, we started off with a competitive city rally. Here, several mixed groups of students had to perform tasks, like taking group photos in front of various sights, finding a phone book of Prague, and buying a special kind of beer under a tight time limit. As an additional inducement, the group with the least points was assigned with the task to organize beverages and snacks for the poster session on Sunday. The atmosphere within in the mixed groups was very good and the city rally reached the goal to get to know one another.
On Friday, the official program started with a range of invited talks, covering all four MAINZ research areas (Bio-Related Materials, Correlated Matter, Functional Polymers and Hybrid Structures). Thus, the talks were designed to overlap with the research areas of the PhD students and led to lively discussions between the speakers and the students. The speakers were: Prof. Vlčková and Dr. Nižňanský from the Charles University in Prague, Prof. Kröger from the TU Dresden and Prof. Ulbrich from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences, Prague.
As voted for at the preceding student seminar, for the first time we had broader overview talks, given by the students, covering the different research areas. This helped to get a good introduction to adjacent topics in the broad field of materials science within the graduate school and resulted in fruitful discussions. The talks were given by Karsten Kreis about Correlated Matter, Christian Zerfaß about Bio-Related Materials, Ana Fokina about Functional Polymers and Robert Lindner about Hybrid Structures. Besides the overview talks we had also the in-depth research talks. In two parallel sessions, divided into physical and chemical related topics, the students discussed in detail their different research projects and were partially surprised that other students deal with similar problems and established future cooperation within the graduate school. Every student who has not given a talk presented a poster during the poster session. The students had time to discuss their research projects in detail and got often new ideas and approaches from the helpful discussions with the other students. On purpose, the poster session took place in the early evening and was accompanied by beverages that the students had enough time to socialize and get to know each other. The later the evening, the more turned the poster session into a convivial evening.
A tradition during our student seminars is that we invite two alumni, who talk about their time after finishing the PhD. They talk about their personal situations after the PhD and told the students for what reasons they choose their career path. The talks give helpful input for the students about topics like job applications, job interviews and the first time in the new job. Furthermore, the students had plenty of time to place all their questions. This year, we invited two former MAINZ students, who decided to work in industry after their PhD. The first MAINZ alumni talk was given by Angel Medina who did his PhD in the group of Prof. Schmidt at the institute of physical chemistry. After his PhD he became a laboratory head in the Rubber-Group of the Continental AG. In his talk he gave a review of the Continental AG and his daily work in the laboratory. Dorothea Moderegger continued with the second alumni talk. She did her PhD in the group of Prof. Rösch at the Institute for Nuclear Chemistry. After her PhD she worked a couple of month in the MAINZ office before she became a head of laboratory at Bayer CropScience. From both talks we learned what are the major problems and pitfalls while applying for a position in industry. Furthermore, we had an unexpected talk about a possible career path after completing the PhD. The talk was given by Mark Bajohrs the general manager of MAINZ. He showed us that besides applying for a job industry or academia, there is also a possibility to work in science management. It was very interesting to learn, how he became the general manager of MAINZ and the talk broadened our view concerning possible future career paths.
Besides the official program there was also enough spare time and we could explore Prague on our own to visit sights like the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge or the old town of Prague. Furthermore, two social events were organized for all participants. We made a boat trip on the Moldau and chat in a relaxed atmosphere or simply enjoyed the view over Prague from the water. The other event was a dinner at a traditional Czech brewery. After both events, most of the students used the evening to explore the night life of Prague.
On the morning before the departure, the students had the opportunity to give feedback and vote for the next location of the MAINZ seminar. The students voted for Lisbon as the next location of the student seminar. Furthermore, the students could suggest social activities, which should take place within the next year. The students voted for activities like a barbecue or a wine tasting. Thankfully, some of the MAINZ students will organize these events in the future. After lunch we started our bus ride back to Mainz and Kaiserslautern.