Newsletter PS-Park 'n' Science, 4th edition, July 2010
English text version of the Park'n'Science newsletter
Table of Contents
Securing skilled personnel at the Science Park
Life as an apprentice on the Science Park
From the laboratory to practical application – self-repairing anti-corrosion coatings
New in Golm
Park ‘n’ Life
Career opportunities on the Science Park
Visitors to the Science Park travelling along the motorway through the Mark Brandenburg landscape, experience a surprising change of scenery. They suddenly find themselves on one of the region’s most recent and up to date scientific locations, as though they had arrived in another world, a world that offers outstanding opportunities to experienced researchers and students alike. The International Research Schools at the Max Planck Institutes also have a worldwide reputation for their post-doctoral training.
But even for people in application-related professions who play a part in the highly specialised research work, the Potsdam-Golm Science Park offers attractive opportunities for development. There are a wide range of training positions on offer at the institutes, and the training to modern standards offers universally good career opportunities. Brand new advanced training opportunities tailored to the needs of the science park are now being created within existing employment contracts at companies and scientific institutions. Another career path is the route to setting up your own company, for which a range of consulting and support services are available during the startup phase on the Science Park.
In researching training opportunities on the science park it soon became apparent that in one issue there was only enough space for a few examples. Further examples will therefore be provided in future issues.
I hope you enjoy the issue. Barbara Buller
Securing skilled personnel at the Science Park
Carsten Kleinert, network manager at the QualifizierungsVerbund Potsdam
Since October 2009, the QualifizierungsVerbund Potsdam (Potsdam qualification association) has been combining activities at the two high-tech sites in Potsdam, the Potsdam-Golm Science Park and the Biotech Campus Potsdam, with a view to attracting skilled personnel. The aim is to offer the two sites demand-oriented tools for education and training, and support in the area of strategic personnel planning and development.
The green light for this forward-looking project was given with the award of a grant by the LASA (Brandenburg state agency for structure and employment) for a qualification network. Since then, eleven small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and three cooperation partners from the two science and business sites have joined the newly formed QualifizierungsVerbund Potsdam.
A study of the “personnel checks” carried out by the network partners revealed that needs within companies were similar and so combined activities as well as company-specific measures are useful as well as desirable. In the future, these will include qualification measures from external training providers and training provided by the association partners to each other. Training courses are planned in the laboratory field, in the areas of quality assurance, clinical research and sales management, as well as language courses and individual coaching and advice for the companies and employees at both sites.
One of the greatest challenges with regard to securing skilled personnel in an SME is the limited capacities available, according to Carsten Kleinert, a business management graduate and network manager at the QualifizierungsVerbund. “On the one hand, there is often no time in the day-to-day work to give a thought to education and training, or there are simply no financial resources available to provide the company and the employees with expensive training,” says Kleinert. “On the other hand, young companies often find it difficult to assess which qualifications could be important for new projects in the future.”
A further important aspect of the QualifizierungsVerbund Potsdam is explained by Friedrich Winskowski, site manager of the Potsdam-Golm Science Park, one of the main initiators of the association. ”The ability to secure suitable skilled personnel for the high-tech sites at Golm and Hermannswerder is being increasingly influenced by demographic change and the diminished pool of well qualified, skilled personnel, particularly in the non-academic sector. Even we will have to go looking for suitable applicants in the future. It is important that we take steps in good time.”
An applicant database designed to facilitate the placement of and search for skilled personnel, as well as apprentices and doctoral students, is currently being tested.
The support of the QualifizierungsVerbund Potsdam makes it much easier for companies and institutions to help their employees to gain qualifications as needs dictate and locally to the workplace. It also allows them to benefit from suitable funding measures, to secure their future requirement for skilled personnel and to promote the expansion and development of the companies and therefore of the two sites.
Anja Lauterbach, Standortmanagement Golm gGmbH
Information available at: www.qv-potsdam.de
Life as an apprentice on the Science Park
A varied and attractive range of training positions makes the Science Park of interest to trainees too.
For a long time, research and development have no longer been possible without skilled assistance and sound preparation from experienced practitioners. It is not simply a question of basic tasks that need to be carried out routinely and reliably, but very often involves special cases that require understanding and initiative. To give but a few examples, valued partners include administrative experts who guide us through the maze of rules and regulations with assurance, workshop managers who come up with and implement smart solutions, and IT experts who rescue essential data after a crash; this important know-how can be best preserved through the ongoing in-house training of young talent.
Apprenticeships on the Science Park for ambitious, modern careers are highly sought after, as they are rare in the sparsely industrialised region of Brandenburg. Some apprentices travel long distances to find them. To increase your chances of getting an apprenticeship from among the numerous applicants, you not only need good school grades in the relevant subjects, but holiday work placements are also recommended, because this can give you an accurate impression of your potential career. The attentive supervision of your training company will then help you over the first hurdles in your professional life. In an ideal situation, the training period will result in a permanent employment contract, and sometimes the interval is also bridged with fixed-term contracts. Even if the situation requires you to look for a new job, in most cases trainees are able to gain their first professional experiences.
Specialist in media and information services
“I like to read” – sounds great, but to be shortlisted from among 50 applicants for one of two apprenticeships offered each year at the university library requires a little bit more. For example, good grades in computer science and English are a prerequisite, as the training to become a “specialist in media and information services” is focused very much on the new methods of gathering information; however communication skills are also important in order to be able to advise users.
After three years of training, and shortly before her final oral exam, Melanie Leibelt is enthusiastic about her varied and interesting career, despite the stress of exams. Even before her training started, she had gained a concrete impression of the profession through work experience placements. And just today, her commitment was rewarded with the promise of a fixed-term contract. With a mischievous smile, she presents the results from the “media design” subject module: an original series of cards about the profession of media and information services that completely does away with the usual library clichés. A particular emphasis of her training was the many different placement locations. In order to gain as much experience as possible, she spread the three obligatory practical placements over five different locations: the Brandenburg Main State Archive, the university archive, the Ludwigsfelde municipal library, the book trade and the Memorial Library in honour of the victims of Stalinism. “In this specialist library, you are close to people; knowledge is important as well as communication on a human level. Readings by authors and other events need to be organised for this,” she gushes. The training supervisor at the university library, Regina Klein, adds: “Media and information services is a modern media profession. We feel a bit like air-traffic controllers, organising the flow of information; as service providers, we want to provide help for studies.”
Human resources services consultant
The human resources services consultant apprenticeship was created for this occupation only recently. Prior to this, human resources departments in large companies had to train their staff through their own training measures.
One of the first to recognise the opportunities of this new job description was Laura Mattheus, who is now starting her third year of training as an apprentice at the Max Plank Institute of Colloids and Interfaces. For orientation in her professional life, she decided go down the route of practical training after passing her Abitur (German A level equivalent). Her experiences from this could also stand her in good stead for a later course of study in business psychology. In her class at the vocational school, the first and only specialist class in Brandenburg, she is one of a few among the 13 students who are not trained in the “temporary work” services sector. However, she is happy not to be under the pressure of recruitment and resources planning, and has also avoided the routine admin tasks of other office-based jobs with this choice of career. She likes the variety of processes in human resources, from keeping personnel files and calculating travel costs, to internal job advertisements and scheduling the occupational medical checks. In addition to the vocational school, she is able to participate in training provided by her employer, e.g. federal travel expense law or the German wage agreement for public sector apprentices (TVAöD). “Others don’t get so much,” she says, appreciating these additional training opportunities. What is more, her employer guarantees to take her on for a year after satisfactory completion of her training. After that, her training in general commercial principles provides her with good skills for many office jobs.
Chemical laboratory assistant
In the Pilot Plant Center – Marco Schulze arranges a new trial (Photo: IAP)
Even when he was at school, Marco Schulze knew he wanted to work in a laboratory. He applied for very specific work placements where he could become familiar with various fields of work: with research at the German Research Centre for Geosciences and with quality assurance at the Herbstreith & Fox GmbH pectin factory in Werder. After that his career goal was fixed: he wanted to become a chemical laboratory assistant. Today, a year after completing his training at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research – and in the meantime becoming an employee there – Marco knows that his decision to work in the varied area of research was the right one. His current position at the Pilot Plant Center, where the scaling-up from laboratory scale to larger dimensions takes place, fulfils his desire for new challenges: no other vocational training centre has such a complex installation, so lifelong learning for Marco is beginning straight after his training. “There is even such a thing as positive stress,” he says laughing.
As he had completed chemistry as a special subject for the Abitur, Marco didn’t find the theoretical requirements in the vocational school difficult. However, Marlies Walter, training supervisor at IAP, stresses that passing the Abitur exam is not a prerequisite for obtaining a training place at IAP. Students who leave secondary school (Realschule) with good to very good grades in natural sciences have equally good chances. Once the practical foundations have been mastered at the vocational training centre in Adlershof for the first 10 months of training and the work groups have been integrated into the institute, the apprentices are already able to take on tasks within the projects; the scientists are then willing contacts for any questions about the demanding theoretical subject matter to be learnt.
From the laboratory to practical application –
self-repairing anti-corrosion coatings
Intelligent, self-healing coatings have the potential to revolutionise corrosion prevention.
Discussing results in the laboratory (Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces/Göran Gnaudschun)
Scientific work by the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPIKG) in the field of polyelectrolyte layers and nanotechnology has resulted in an innovative, application-oriented approach. In 2007, Dr. D. Shchukin, a junior researcher, won the renowned NanoFutur prize awarded by the BMBF. This enabled him to establish his own research group to specifically look for possible applications for his scientific discoveries. Then in 2008, this work yielded the idea for an innovative corrosion-prevention solution. The development of this approach for the market has been advanced by the original team under Dr. D. Shchukin with the support of the BMBF ForMaT initiative since 2009.
The fascinating self-healing power of the human skin easily erases any trace of minor injuries – children usually discover this many times over while playing. However, when metallic surfaces are damaged, there is no such self-healing process. Or at least not yet. The “InteNsA” founding team at the MPIKG is well on the way to transferring this self-healing effect into an industrial application.
Active anti-corrosion coatings
Conventional corrosion-prevention concepts are based on thin and generally multi-layered surface treatments. These “passive” anti-corrosion coatings need to possess good barrier properties in order to provide satisfactory protection. However, it is precisely those properties that fail when they are affected by external factors such as mechanical damage or contact with aggressive substances (etching). This problem is solved with the InteNsA team’s special micro and nanocapsules. These capsules are filled with a corrosion inhibitor and then embedded in various customary coating formulations. Depending on the corrosion trigger, these new coatings release active counteragents specifically at the site of the damage that eliminate the cause of the corrosion and therefore the risk of corrosion.
Intelligent behaviour thanks to an innovative microstructure
This “intelligent behaviour” of the new active corrosion-prevention coatings is only possible thanks to their innovative microstructure. Very small receptacles with dimensions varying from a few micrometres to a few nanometres are embedded in a coating matrix. These tiny objects not only contain active substances inside, but also have an intelligently designed polyelectrolyte shell, the permeability of which changes depending on the type of corrosion trigger. If the encapsulated active substance (e.g. a corrosion inhibitor) is released, it can act against corrosive influences directly at the correct spot. Once the risk has been eliminated, the permeability of the receptacle shell is reduced and it returns to its closed original state. As well as allowing active substances to be used sparingly, it also enables savings to be made in the coating material, because the outstanding protective effect can still be guaranteed even with thinner layers. Shorter curing times also mean that lead times in industrial production can be shortened. Furthermore use of coatings like this means that organic solvents can be dispensed almost entirely. And so, a mechanism that was based on nature will eventually also be of benefit to nature itself too.
Doctoral training at the
International Max Planck Research Schools
Joint initiative to promote the next generation of scientists
Well educated young scientists are of great importance for the future of science, research and innovation. Back in 1999, the Max Planck Society together with the Association of Universities and other Education Institutions in Germany launched an initiative to promote junior scientists, called the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). These Schools offer especially gifted students from Germany and abroad the possibility to work towards their Ph.D. exam in a structured program providing excellent research conditions. Courses are held in English and an emphasis is placed on international collaboration. In particular, the Research Schools want to attract foreign students to Germany to pursue their doctoral studies, to make them familiar with the research facilities and to motivate them to continue their research in Germany after graduating, or to cooperate with German research institutes and universities. The goal is that foreigners should account for at least half of the students in an IMPRS. They have the choice of doing their Ph.D. exam at a German university, or at their home university.
A total of about 60 International Max Planck Research Schools have already been established, involving 71 Max Planck Institutes and 79 faculties/universities.
There are four Research Schools in the Golm Science Park. With the involvement of Potsdam University and the Berlin Universities, doctoral students are investigating such diverse topics as biomimetic systems, string theory, photosynthesis and metabolic processes in plants, bioinformatics and gravitational waves (see p.2 of this issue).
The International Max Planck Research Schools on the Potsdam-Golm Science Park
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute):
IMPRS on Gravitational Wave Astronomy (Potsdam-Golm and Hanover)
Here, doctoral students are trained in the emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy. The programme offered by this IMPRS covers the complete scope of the field, starting with classical interferometry on the Earth and in space, to advanced and nonclassical interferometry, and going right through to source modelling and data analysis. The Albert Einstein Institute and the Institute for Gravitational Physics at the Leibniz Universität Hannover are developing and operating the GEO600 gravitational wave detector near Hannover in cooperation with partners in Glasgow and Cardiff, and are playing a leading role in the development of LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
Partners: Albert Einstein Institute, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
IMPRS for Geometric Analysis, Gravitation and String Theory (Potsdam-Golm)
This Research School deals with a broad range of issues in the field of theoretical gravitational physics. These include, firstly, the mathematical and conceptual analysis of the field equations of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the examination of the problems of differential geometry that arise in physical applications or are motivated by them. A second focus of the Research School is on superstring theory and its generalisations, with the aim of unifying the theory of general relativity with quantum theory to form a consistent theory of quantum gravity.
Partners: Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, University of Potsdam, Free University of Berlin
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces:
IMPRS on Biomimetic Systems
Biomimetic systems are model systems that are used to understand various aspects of supra-molecular self-organisation. Studying these systems requires access to a multitude of methods: biochemical methods for creating the systems, biophysical methods for describing the supra-molecular organisation, and theoretical methods for modelling the structures and their dynamics. The Research School deals primarily with the investigation of biomimetic systems in the nano and micro ranges.
Partners: Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Humboldt University in Berlin, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, University of Potsdam.
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology:
IMPRS Primary Metabolism and Growth
The ability of plants to grow depends on their photosynthetic and metabolic capacity. Optimal development and growth will depend on how the available resources are used to generate energy, to provide building blocks for the synthesis of structural and functional metabolites, and to lay down reserves for future use. Innumerable regulatory links connect metabolism and growth, resulting in a flexible and dynamic network. The doctoral students examine the relationship between photosynthesis, primary metabolism and growth in plants. Central aspects of the research strategy include bioinformatics and molecular phenotyping, in which gene activities, plant substances and metabolites are analysed by high-throughput technologies.
The Research School works closely with the GoFORSYS doctoral programme.
Partners: Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, University of Potsdam
Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for Golm Scientist
Dr. Joachim Storsberg, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research
Every year since 1978, the Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize has been awarded to researchers at the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. The prize rewards outstanding scientific work in solving application-related problems. More than 200 research scientists have already won the prize. One of three prizes awarded this year, each worth 20,000 euros, went to Golm research scientist Dr Joachim Storsberg. Working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research, he developed a so-called biomimetic keratoprosthesis, an artificial cornea (see PS 2/2009). This artificial cornea has now been implanted successfully on many occasions and has saved the sight of people for whom this was the last resort.
The award ceremony was held at the annual conference of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in Leipzig. As well as three Joseph von Fraunhofer prizes, the Stiftverband Science Prize and three Hugo Geiger Prizes were also awarded. The guest of honour was the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Professor Annette Schavan. The prize-giving ceremony was a festive occasion held in the presence of over 600 guests from the world of politics, business and science.
New in Golm
The Centre for Molecular Diagnostics and Bioanalytics (ZMDB)
The team of the ZMDB: Christine Mißler, Dr. Günter Peine, Isabel Hahne
With its many high-performing companies and research institutions, the region of Berlin-Brandenburg concentrates broad expertise in the development of innovative diagnostics. Here, the ZMDB provides a platform for the transfer of know-how from scientific research to economy in the field of in vitro diagnostics. Therefore it focuses mainly on the identification and validation of biomarkers, technological developments and their industrial application.
The ZMDB also organises various activities for the development of networks between research institutions and companies. One example is the local science event “Wissenschaft vor Ort”, held this year at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research. Another important task of the ZMDB is the identification and support of joint research projects: It helps to find appropriate partners and funding opportunities.
At present, the ZMDB-team consists of three colleagues. Christine Mißler can be met in the GO:IN; her main focus is the development of new technologies. Dr. Günter Peine, who is alternately in Berlin and Potsdam, works mainly in the field of biomarkers and is responsible for the coordination of the entire project. In the Berlin office, Isabel Hahne is responsible for the organisation of the various events.
Dr. Peine and his team are looking forward to assist you with all questions concerning the development of in vitro diagnostics.
Professor Fan will be a guest at the Fraunhofer IBMT in Potsdam from May 2010; during this time he will work on joint projects with the Fraunhofer scientists, as well as giving seminars and lectures.
Park ‘n’ Life
Women of all nationalities
meet up regularly at the Science Park
“At last there is a group like this!” This was a comment we heard from a lot of people at our first IWG (International Women’s Group) meeting.
These meetings are just some of the many activities organised by the Newcomer Center on the Potsdam-Golm Science Park.
The Newcomer Center was set up earlier this year by Carolin Schneider with the support of the Science Park site management. Herself the wife of a foreign research scientist, she knows from personal experience what it means to move to a foreign country with your husband, to leave everything behind and start a new life. In the scientific research community it is quite normal for people to move home and job regularly for different projects. Often it is the husbands who face new career challenges, and more and more wives and families are accompanying them to their new place of work. In most cases the wives have had to give up their own careers, leave family and friends and now have to get to grips with a foreign language and a different way of life. Often it is not easy to find your way around in what is usually a foreign culture, to organise child care and schools, make new friends and integrate in the new environment.
International Young Scientists Tournament
(Photo: Anja Lauterbach)
In the groups at the Newcomer Center these uprooted families find support from both foreign and local women and their families. They come for tips, to join in the activities or simply to spend time over a cup of coffee. The Women’s Group is open to all nationalities and offers the opportunity to meet people from their own country and from many other countries as well, to talk about their different cultures and to learn more about Potsdam too.
The voluntary group set up by Carolin Schneider currently meets once a month at the GO:IN Innovation Center. A barbecue on the Max Planck Campus is also planned in June for all women and their families.
The Science Park site management are hoping that they can still obtain the financial resources this year to expand the Newcomer Center and extend these helpful and necessary services and activities.
Contact: Carolin B. Schneider, Fon 0331-237 351 135
A happy reunion
Former employees of the Max Plank Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPIKG) work all over the world. They work mainly in science, but also in business and management and they influence developments and future structures. A good reason to remember long-standing contacts and the connection to the former institute. Which is why the MPIKG organises an annual alumni meeting to provide information about “trends in colloid and interface research”. Traditionally this is always held on the day after Corpus Christi, this year on 4th June.
The meeting began with presentations from former employees. Above all, these dealt with the various career paths taken after leaving MPIKG. So we heard about the current research work at the TU Munich and the ETH Zurich, and also about the day-to-day work at the European Patent Office. As in other years, prizes were also awarded, on the one hand, for the best doctorate and on the other for the best scientific discovery in the last year.
Bright sunshine, a poster session, football, beach volley ball and the traditional institute party rounded off the day and left enough time for happy reunions, fun and detailed discussions.
A sheep and a crowd of people eager to learn on the
“cleverest night of the year”
Hands-on science, music, a good atmosphere and beautiful summer weather prevailed at the Long Night of Science on 5th June. This scientific family event was held from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the university campuses at Golm and, for the first time, Am Neuen Palais. Around 5,000 visitors from all age groups attended and the mood was informal and cheerful throughout. Anna the sheep, who had featured on all the posters and flyers and in the commercial trailer before the night, proved to be a particular attraction. At Golm, the mystery surrounding the animal and biodiversity was solved. In nine themed houses on the Golm campus, in lecture halls and laboratories, from scientists at the university, the neighbouring Fraunhofer Institutes and the Rehbrücke Institute of Human Nutrition, visitors learnt about current research, got to try things for themselves and became immersed in the fascinating world of science. On their nocturnal journey of discovery, curious visitors could visit the “baby laboratory”, the “handkerchief laboratory” or the observatory, discover how the “sticking plaster analysis” is prepared properly, try out the “love thermometer, magic mirror & co.” or go on a treasure hunt with a GPS receiver.
Language courses on the Science Park
Ms. Federspiel (right)
Since the beginning of June, visiting researchers, members of the institutes and companies on the Science Park as well as other interested parties have been able to attend language courses on site.
Courses in German or English as a foreign language are held in small groups of 3-6 people at different proficiency levels. Organised by the Science Park site management, the courses are taught by friendly and experienced teachers at the GO:IN Innovation Center. They range from “Survival-Newcomer German” to “Advanced German”, “English Conversation” to “English in the Lab” and are adapted to the participants’ needs. Course times and information about current and upcoming courses can be obtained at any time from the site management.
Information, registration and contact: Carolin B. Schneider, Fon 0331-237 351 135
Children’s University to be held again
The Children’s University event will take place this year for the seventh time at the University of Potsdam. On 24th September, the university campus in Golm will be taken over by 8 to 10 year olds from Potsdam and the surrounding area. Scientists at the university are preparing special lectures for the students. This will allow the children to get their first, hands-on experience of university life. There will be more than ten subjects on offer, covering a wide range of scientific disciplines, including mathematics and the natural sciences, but also history, law and politics. The scientists will adapt the level to their young audience with vivid examples and child-friendly experiments.
Football on every day of the World Cup
Even on the days of the football World Cup when no games were played, employees on the campus were still able to get their fix of football. On 08.07.2010, the championship title was fiercely contested by teams from the institutes on the Max Planck football field. As in professional football, certain swear words were banned – in any language …
During the campus summer festival in August, there will be ample opportunity to analyse the games.
The winners of the tournament were the team from TU Berlin, followed by Team 1 from IAP and PC Dynamo (Uni Potsdam).