18 Jun Perks of Doing a PhD in Germany
Edwin Antonio Chingate (ESR3) & Nebojša Ilić (ESR13)
We are Nebojsa and Edwin, two researchers from two sides of the world that science brought to the same place. Most days, we are sitting in our offices at the opposite sides of the same hallway (well, not every day, thanks COVID!).
In today’s blog post, we’ll discuss all the positive aspects that pursuing a PhD in Germany brings and all the things we learned to appreciate. The memories that we left back in our home countries and the new adventures that we encountered here.
Germany has always been a powerful force in the world of science. Einstein, Gauss, Heisenberg are some of the many names that shaped science as we know it. Therefore, it is difficult to think about doing research in Germany without feeling the weight of their accomplishments and to think of Germany other than a work-demanding country.
This is far from the truth, though.
Germans have very high respect towards leisure time, both their own and others. The diversity of hobbies and activities to choose from and get lost in is incredible.
Do you want to practise mountain biking? There is a trail going by the river Isar, basically in the city center. Rock climbing? Just choose one of the many centers spread around the city. The quality of your off-time can be as active and as engaging as you want it to be. Practically, there are no limitations.
That being said, science would not be possible without proper planning and discipline for pursuing your goals. Scientific development requires more than good ideas and curiosity. It requires hard work and clear communication.
One thing that is clear the moment you set foot in Germany is that general societal values are in line with science values. When you live in Germany, you see that everyone is very organized and disciplined. A clear plan is an essential tool in your everyday life (like we have a choice with the way the bureaucracy is here!).
And yet, working in research groups here feels more like a family than a job.
You can ask for help from any of your colleagues, group leaders, and technicians. They always will be open to supporting you with a smile on their face. They will also finish a workday with a beer or ice cream on a sunny day.
We find ourselves leading scientific discussions over beer and laughing at all the issues we face during research. Before we know it, our social circle is suddenly our primary source of ideas!
Being productive and focused is easier when you know that you are not alone.
This is a much-needed support system during a period that is bound to put a few gray hairs on your head. On top of this, the diversity of people working in the lab with us is incredible. Not a week goes by without finding some sweets in the shared kitchen or having somebody prepare awesome food for everyone (looking forward to the next Cinco de Mayo, go Mexico!).
There’s more to it than food, though. Autonomy and critical thinking are integrated into daily life, and critical thinking is a basic skill for doing science.
In addition to that, general environmental awareness is impressive! Kids are encouraged to be autonomous for all of their tasks from very early on in their lives. There are many engineering-related games on playgrounds, and nature is well integrated with the urban environment. Doing research is also like being in the playground, you just have bigger and more complex toys. For us, it was great to find a place where scientific curiosity is cherished and ideas have space to grow.
It is truly an incredible thing to be in a place where we have a lot of freedom to develop our ideas with sound guidance. Our laboratory infrastructure is excellent, and most of the time, we get everything that we need in house (or down the street, considering that we are located on a scientific campus). We have access to a lot of resources, and time optimization is easier. Experimental set-ups can be made out of old systems from former PhD students. Sometimes, you can get new ideas from old solutions. For example, do you need a reactor that a group from another University owns? Just figure out the transport, and you can have it!
A key factor for science development is financial support. Germany values science, and there is a significant investment in science from a variety of sources! Both companies and the government appreciate the outcome of the research. It is clear that not just solutions are developed but also experts that will ensure that the wheel keeps turning. There are many strong universities to choose from, research institutes bridging the gap between academia and industry, and even companies themselves offering research topics. You just need to know where to look, but nothing to be afraid of. Your research family will always help you out if you need help looking.
Got any questions regarding a PhD in Germany? Feel free to reach out! You’ll probably find us in our labs, trying to find new ways to clean water for the future.