Inspiring discussion at the career round table talk with Ingo Schellhammer, Beiersdorf. Photograph: UHH/Kranz

Career after your PhD: Academia, industry or science management?

For the first time, a two-day career fair for more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers of the Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences and DESY was dedicated solely to different career paths after the doctoral studies.

The participants were introduced to 16 representatives of industry, academia, business and science management. Aside from keynote speeches and a panel discussion with the subject “From industry to science and vice versa”, the attendees were able to discuss their most important questions in small groups and in individual coaching sessions.

The event was jointly organized by a cooperation of the graduate schools PIER Helmholtz Graduate School, Center for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI), International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling (IMPRS-ESM), International Max Planck Research School for Ultrafast Imaging & Structural Dynamics (IMPRS-UFAST), MIN Graduate School, and School of Integrated Climate System Sciences (SICSS). It took place on the DESY campus in Bahrenfeld.

In the morning session, which was dedicated to three keynote talks on “Career paths of scientists”, Dr. Antje Wegner of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) pointed out that non-academic careers are the rule rather than the exception among former PhD students. In natural sciences, less than half of the graduates are still doing academic work two years after graduation. However, Dr. Wegner advised the participants to choose their first employment very carefully, since the drawbacks of underqualified work can have a lasting influence on one’s career.

Dr. Oliver Dilly talked about his work at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) where his task is to advise and arbitrate between research and politics with regard to funding of future scientific projects. As a scientist, he had attended delegation trips and negotiations worldwide, and in the industry he still can satisfy his scientific curiosity. Nevertheless, he was only offered a permanent position after three years of employment, which seemed surprising to most attendees.

Prof. Dr. Daniela Domeisen had travelled to Hamburg from Switzerland to speak to the PhD students about her international career path which brought her to six different countries, and how she could successfully utilize her scientific experience with weather forecasts at a London stock company. After several postdoctoral contracts, Prof. Domeisen now holds an assistant professorship in Zürich, where she can bring together her expert knowledge in different fields like forecast, modelling and theory.

Other speakers revealed diverse ways into academia, science administration and management, industry and research careers in small round table groups. The participants were provided a unique insight into the work routine and received concrete tips about how to best contact a firm and what the differences between a family business and a public or a DAX-listed company are.

In the final discussion, JunProf. Dr. Thorsten Uphues of Universität Hamburg, Dr. Michael Wegmann of the Research Center Borstel, Prof. Dr. Julia Gebert of Delft University (NL), Dr. Stephan Brandt of the German Federal Health Ministry and Dr. Steffi Beckhaus, freelance trainer and coach, referred about their shared passion for scientific research, which persistently motivates them.

Text: Anne-Catherin Zappe, translation: Hannah Körber

More information on the programme

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