Q&A with the 2017/2018 Steering Group

A new year started and we want to say a huge thank you to our last Steering Group 2017/2018 for representing the Leibniz PhD Network. 
We wish you all the best on your future journey. In this blog post some former Steering Group members answered questions about their work, impressions and their experiences within the Leibniz PhD Network. In the meantime, tasks have been handed over successfully to the newly voted successors.

Would you like to become more engaged in our network? As a doctoral researcher of any Leibniz Institute, you too can be active and help within the working groups. More information can be found in the respective directories of the working groups on our page.

Jan-Lucas Schanze: Spokesperson 2017/2018


What was your biggest eye opener for you to realize how important the Leibniz PhD Network is/could become?

From my very first moment in the network, I was amazed by all the motivated, creative and enduring commitment by so many volunteers. In our Steering Group and at our events, I could clearly feel the power of interdisciplinary contacts and how much we can learn from each other, also in terms of practices at our institutes. In the same time, our close relation with the Leibniz Head Office, namely with the President Matthias Kleiner, enables us to follow our plans and really achieve something. With the grassroot commitment and the support from the Head Office coming together, we were able to run a large survey among PhDs at Leibniz Institutes, develop a template PhD Agreement, organize two events and collaborate with the Max Planck PhDnet and the Helmholtz Juniors. It will be extremely exciting to follow the news from the Leibniz PhD Network in the next year.

Katarzyna Stoltmann: Spokesperson 2017/2018


What motivated you to stand for election to the Steering Group? Is there a specific goal you had, that could be realized during the last year or will be realized soon?

Yes, there were and still are several reasons for my engagement for the Leibniz PhD network. Two main reasons are integration of doctoral researchers and knowledge transfer. I am a big fan of team work, therefore I was very proud and happy to be a part of the events group. During the events (interdisciplinary conference and General Assembly), we showed the doctoral researchers of the 93 Leibniz-Institutes and research museums that they can work together – even if they are from different disciplines. They can complete each other. The idea worked out very productive during the two events. Now, I am coordinating a big working group (of 50 members) including doctoral researchers from Max-Planck PhDnet, Helmholtz Juniors and Leibniz PhD Network. Our aim is to organize a conference for approx. 350 participants. One of the parts should be a career fair to show to the doctoral researchers diverse job opportunities after their PhD thesis. The final phase of the PhD thesis is pretty hard, because we have to decide whether we are staying in the academia or not. Our big wish is to support as many doctoral researchers as possible in making this decision. The second very important reason for me was and still is the improvement of knowledge transfer between the doctoral researchers. Therefore, I implemented a requirement analysis for intranet for all of us – doctoral researchers of the Leibniz-Institutes and research museums. Now, I am crossing the fingers for the next steps (implementation of the idea). I hope, you are doing it too. Let’s work together on the research topics!

Marie Urbicht: Financial Officer 2017/2018


Did your experience as a member of the Steering Group differ from your expectations? If yes, how?

Yes, because honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Our institute was new to the network when I joined the General Assembly 2017 in Rostock. Just upon joining, I learned about everything the network was doing and what it stands for. I was really impressed by everything it had achieved in its first year of existence and I couldn’t wait to be part of it. The day of the election passed by quickly and the new Steering Group just had little time to get together before everyone parted ways and went back to their respective institutes. But the general vibe was that all members were really motivated to improve the lives of PhD students, to organize events and to make the PhD Network more visible. As the year progressed and we as the Steering Group had our monthly calls and exchanged E-mails on an everyday basis, I could really feel us coming together closer as a team. It was a special way of getting to know each other. Every one of us had their own reasons for joining the network and their own priorities in what topics should be pushed forward. What I believe unites everyone- Steering Group and all other members of the network- is this sense of being surrounded by a team, by a group of people that shares a common feeling of purpose. We all work towards something bigger. One might not necessarily always agree on all the details, but in the end, you strive for the same bigger goal. Several time during this year, for example when the Network had successfully organized the Interdisciplinary Conference in June 2018, I found myself thinking “Wow, did we really do this?”. Even when being part of the Steering Group and having an overview of everything that’s going on within the network, I was still amazed by what we have achieved. The skills you develop when working in the network are very valuable for many other aspects of life- pushing for a common goal with others, learning to listen and to compromise and to challenge the status quo. I’m very grateful for everything I have learned from the other members of the network and I can’t wait to see how things will continue to grow in the new election period now. I’m wishing the new Steering Group all the best and I hope their experiences will be just as positive!

Saskia Ripp: Section Officer 2017/2018
Section A – Humanities and Educational Research


What is something you would like to tell a PhD representative who is considering standing for election to the Steering Group at next year’s General Assembly?

I would definitely encourage him or her to stand for election an tell them that the network has become a very important instrument for improving the conditions for doctoral researchers in Germany after only two years. This was only possible because of the commitment and ideas of the very dedicated people in the past steering and working groups, so it is very important to have active and committed people who want to make a difference. Being part of the steering committee is the best possibility to take part in the network and have a direct impact on where the network will be headed and which topics it will tackle next. It is also a great opportunity to learn more about the operational work of such a committee and organization. So, if you are considering standing for election, don’t hesitate. Working with other committed people that fight for the same ideas is very fun and even satisfactory, given the fact that you will be rewarded by seeing that the things you have worked on actually take place or are considered by people in the relevant positions.

Rosa Isela Grote-Gálvez: Section Officer 2017/2018
Section C: Life Sciences


What was your biggest challenge during your time as a Steering Group member of the Leibniz PhD Network? 

The biggest challenge was just doing it! I wanted to show all the skeptical people that being a PhD, a mother of two children and a Leibniz representative is compatible. The PhD life is hard, very limited, sometimes very frustrating and in the end, we have to demonstrate that we deserve the academic degree and are good researchers. Is this the perfect time, or at least the right moment, to do voluntary work for PhDs? I knew from my own experience that it greatly depends on how flexible you are in your work. I am convinced that it is mandatory for us young scientists to be outside our research institutions, to be seen in society and to develop networks. Due to new forms of communication and social media, we have to actively work to increase the acceptance for our scientific work and to be heard in in order for attention to be paid to our interests. That´s why I was delighted by the Leibniz PhD Network and the Agenda we had. Nevertheless, I must admit that I have less time overall for my scientific goals and free time, but the work at Leibniz definitely sharpened my professional abilities and skills and was highly satisfactory because it shed a new light on stress and competition in the world of research. It may also offer career benefits. Finally, I was also strongly motivated because – despite all the gender equality movements – there is still a big gender gap in scientific careers. If we don´t start becoming inspirational role models that motivate the next generation, disparities and inequalities will persist.

Florian Korinth: Section Officer 2017/2018
Section D: Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Engineering


What are you most proud of in your time in the Leibniz PhD Network Steering Group?

I am most proud of our steps to further the communication within the Network. The new website of the Network with the blog works quite nicely and looks really good (thanks to everyone in the Communications WG). The future workshop was a good opportunity to get to know the other active people in the WGs and talk within the WGs face-to-face. I believe the social activity day and the more open format of the first day of the General Assembly resulted in very active discussions and exchange. Finally I would like to thank everyone from the Steering Group. I really enjoyed the team spirit we had and working with you all.

Meike Weltin: Section Officer 2017/2018
Section E: Environmental Research


What kind of advice do you have for your successors?

I think there are no easily formulated guidelines to follow and most of the time working for the PhD Network implies a lot of trying out. You just have to preserve yourself a decent amount of flexibility and abandon the thought to find the perfect way (at least for me that was the case) of how to keep track on ongoing and suddenly arising tasks, how to communicate in the best ways, or how squeeze in tasks for the Network in an already tight work schedule. Besides that, I would focus on the working groups and all the people who are active there, I think they are the heart of the network. And, when I can make a wish, have a next “Zukunftsworkshop”. Meeting in person always made a large difference. Last but not least, enjoy the time. The year is over so fast, and then you will miss the calls with your fellow members of the steering group in your monthly routine.

Title picture: Steering Group 2017/2018 at Leibniz Head Office.
From left to right: Meike, Saskia, Rosa, Aida, Kasia, Jan-Lucas, Florian and Marie.
Blog Post: Isabel Schober, Lukas Birmes

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