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Postgraduates on their work at DLR



zum Bild Many opportunities for young scientists at DLR

What are the opportunities that await up-and-coming scientists at DLR? Just how well does the DLR Institute support students working on their doctoral theses? Postgraduates at DLR answer these and other questions. They speak about their daily work and why they decided to come to the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Wide-ranging network

"At the spearhead of research, DLR offers the best conditions for budding postgraduate researchers. The work we do here is internationally competitive and gives us access to a wide-ranging network of scientists, business partners and research institutes. Add to that the numerous conferences, symposiums and scientific events which DLR participates in. The effect is that we remain at the cutting edge of research, and can make a positive contribution."

Csaba Singer, postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Technical Thermodynamics
Vlada Stamenkovic, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research The search for life on other planets

"I am working on a theme that has implications which reach much further than pure science: the search for extra-terrestrial life forms. One of the many aspects of my research is gauging the relationship between life and a planet’s geological development. Life as we know it needs energy, water in its liquid state and sufficient nutrients: a combination not available on all planets. Mars, for instance, is much too dry and cold to support life, and on the surface very much exposed to energy-rich cosmic radiation. And yet, in the past (perhaps even now) there may have been sheltered pockets of life deep under the planet’s surface. I am studying the circumstances under which such pockets are created, and how we can trace them. My work is embedded in an internationally-linked research alliance led by DLR, called “Planetary Development and Life”, which is sponsored by the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft. This gives us plenty of contacts to colleagues in other research institutes all over the world."

Interdisciplinary collaboration

"DLR is the ideal environment for undergraduate and postgraduate research. In addition to support close to the universities, we have the possibility here of working at the spearhead of research in modern laboratories, and to be active in the scientific community as a whole through conventions and conferences. We are free to divide up our day, so we have the flexibility to work as and when the brainwaves come. We also have the opportunity of working in close collaboration with a range of colleagues, which is fun and, at the same time, stimulating. I particularly enjoy interdisciplinary work between engineering disciplines and the natural sciences from the most diverse areas you could imagine; it doesn’t take long before good ideas come to the surface, some of them even through ‘lateral thinking’”.

Franz Andert, postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Flight Systems
Tobias Wunderlich, postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Aerodynamics and Flow Technology

The aircraft of the future

"What is left after a study programme in aeronautics and space exploration? Well, obviously something that involves the design and aerodynamic shaping of commercial aeroplanes. That is what the DLR Institute for Aerodynamics and Flow Technology in Braunschweig offers. I am working here as a postgraduate researcher, and use the most up-to-date software (such as CATIA V5, Centaur V7, Tau R2007 and Ansys V11). My work concentrates on the aerodynamics and the structure of commercial aircraft, so I often work with colleagues from other departments. It is this spirit of collaboration and an excellent work climate that enables us to solve all our challenging tasks. Everything we learn here equips us well for a future career in the aviation and aeronautics industries. My wish remains to work on the commercial aircraft of the future. DLR, with all its Institutes is the obvious place to be."

Unimagined horizons

"My postgraduate research should be one of the tiles in the mosaic that is the study of the surface of our planetary neighbour, Mars, and its climatic and geological history: I am looking at the otherwise fairly “red” planet craters and depressions, in which dark, fine-grained sandy material is layered by the wind, some of it in the most impressive sickle-shaped dunes. The provenance and creation of this material, its mineralogical composition, and the quality and mobility of the dunes form the background to my thesis. My research work entails appraising images from the European Mars Express mission, taken with a special camera operated by DLR. Some of these are records hitherto unseen by human eyes, and certainly never analysed. They show Mars in fascinating detail. Visiting international conferences and working in collaboration with a worldwide consortium of Mars scientists is a particularly interesting and engaging part of what I do; it offers me unimagined horizons and gives me the opportunity of acquiring unique and extraordinary experiences."

Daniela Tirsch, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research
Astrid Horn, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine

Zero-G “a bonus”

"My research work deals with the effects of zero-gravity on the immune system. In addition to experiments here on Earth, tests will also be carried out in the microgravity environment on the International Space Station (ISS). My tasks include the preparation of the flight hardware and the appropriate control experiments. This combination of biology and technology fascinates me, and, of course, it’s fantastic to work on an experiment that is going to be carried out in space. Moreover, in a way, there’ll be a “bonus”: before take-off, we will have to test the experiment in zero-gravity as part of an ESA parabolic flight campaign – and I will have the pleasure of experiencing weightlessness myself. That makes it the perfect work for me. My position is financed by a sponsorship contract between DLR and EADS, in Friedrichshafen."

Improved environmental conservation

"Due to the development of reversible fuel cells – the theme of my thesis – work at DLR gives me the chance to make a contribution to tomorrow’s world and improved environmental conservation. The well-equipped laboratories mean that I can combine practical and theoretical work, which is my idea of interesting and varied work. The increasing network of research students makes it easy to get to know about subjects unrelated to mine that are nonetheless of interest, and thus expand my knowledge horizon."

Sebastian Altmann, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute of Technical Thermodynamics
Carsten Freist, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute of Structures and Design

Educational programme with “soft skills”

"Two years ago, I joined DLR as a young scientist, which offers the possibility of doing a doctorate. In my view, the variety and quality of the laboratory equipment and requisite software packages is a real plus. Together with the ocean of knowledge and experience of my colleagues in the Institute, almost every problem can be solved. And let’s not forget the rich education programme which, in addition to specialist skills, includes soft skills."

Putting ideas into practice

"As a postgraduate researcher, DLR gives me a host of fascinating opportunities, particularly in terms of freedom. The freedom, for instance, to put my own ideas into practice in the context of my intensive and exhaustive work on my thesis. Continual feedback from my colleagues, stimulating scientific discussions and the downright friendly working atmosphere all contribute to rapid and constructive progress. DLR also offers the opportunity to address an audience of specialists at many international conferences and to present my results, and get to know the scientific community. I also value the involvement in courses and the university circuit, and the opportunities this yields for building up experience. The result is a rich and varied time investment in my doctorate, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone else."

Hannes Taubenböck, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)
Tania Kirmse, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology

Down to the wing beat of an owl

"At DLR, people get the opportunity to work in unique environments. Our optical measurement technology is used in various wind tunnels throughout Europe and in test flights, and in other fields such as the automotive industry. The various pre-conditions leave no room for boredom. I am always coming up with new questions and being asked to find new solutions to special tasks, no matter whether they relate to the wing beat of an owl or the deformation of the wing of an Airbus."

International postgraduate meetings

"As a postgraduate researcher, I am part of the team at the DLR Solar Research project, where we are working at the zenith of our research field. Every individual makes a meaningful contribution to the future. There are plenty of opportunities to exchange opinions with other postgraduate researchers throughout Europe whether at international project meetings or at the annual research colloquium, held at one or other of the international partners. And we have the wonderful opportunity of working at the Plataforma Solar de Almeria – the largest solar thermal trough power plant in Europe – as part of our research. Our research projects have a solid financial base, so we can enjoy first-class technical equipment, and have access to the latest software and hardware. Our ‘level’ hierarchy enables informal contacts between colleagues, even supervisors, faculty heads/deans and professors are available at any time. In my own opinion, it’s great that we also have full access to the multi-faceted continuing education programme DLR has on offer, ranging from programming courses to language training, to sport. Last but not least, it is of great importance that we can use our working time almost exclusively for research which ties in with the theses we are working on."

Andreas Orth, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Technical Thermodynamics
Hendrik Oberheid, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Flight Guidance

Exciting Discussions

“My field of work includes the development of new landing-control systems for use at airports. My focus in this respect is on the implications for air-traffic controllers and pilots, not least in the sense of workload, awareness of various scenarios and situations. What I particularly like about what I am doing and the working environment is the fact that so much of it combines a range of disciplines. In our department, for instance, about half are psychologists and people from other technical disciplines working closely together: I myself am an engineer. As a result, there are many different approaches and ways of looking at things, and we can draw on a wealth of experience, and there is always plenty to learn with many exciting discussions. In the same way that air transport doesn’t stop at national borders, many projects at the institute are carried out in collaboration with partners from the spheres of European research and industry. That means that we are in direct contact with top international researchers from the start.”

A contemporary theme

“In my research work at the DLR Institute for Physics and the Atmosphere I concentrate on the impacts of air traffic on the climate. The various emissions made by air traffic are disrupting the radiation balance and, consequently, have an impact on the climate. As the effect on the climate depends on the point and altitude of the emission, it can be reduced by altering flight heights and corridors appropriately. I try to off-set the various effects – taking into account various long-term atmospheric lifetimes of this disruption – and this gives me options with which I can use to help minimise the impact of air traffic on the climate. For most of my work, I use a global atmospheric chemistry climate model. The work itself is exciting, particularly the interdisciplinary nature of it, but also due to the potential applications; not to mention the fact that it is a theme which interests both politicians and the public at large."

Christine Fichter, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Atmospheric Physics
Susanne Gebhard, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Materials Research

Relevance for Society

“What particularly excites me about my work at DLR is the evident link between scientific research and industrial applications. I work directly with a jet-engine manufacturer on the damage ratio of blade alloys. We use high-speed particle bombardance techniques to simulate comparable damage to a jet engine with so-called ‘foreign object damage’ and ‘domestic object damage’. My results will become part of the body of research of our industrial partners, and will be used in the development of new material concepts. It is good to know that my work has a direct relevance for both the user and, hence, for society at large."

Practical Research

“I came to DLR for my postgraduate research because it gave me the opportunity to perform research at the cutting edge of science and industry. The raw knowledge gained in the basic experiments could be converted straight away into solutions for actual problems. I can easily apply the subject of my thesis – the investigation of current-induced resonances of flooded hollow spaces – to, for instance, aeroplanes with their landing gear down, or cars with the windows open. Hence I can bring knowledge from such fields of research to bear on ‘laymen’ relatively easy. I can also glean experience at an international level, for example in the context of seminars for doctoral students such as those regularly held by DLR at institutes in the USA like the University of California in Santa Barbara.”

André Heider, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute for Aerodynamics and Flow Technology
Sven Schmerwitz, Postgraduate researcher at the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance

Making Night into Day

“At the Institute of Flight Guidance, we develop and test innovative technologies for the safe and efficient configuration of air traffic. My field of activity is concerned with the improvement of on-board functions in modern cockpits. My job is to create the ideal sensor view for pilots hampered by fog, dust or rain. This will give the pilot a picture of what he can’t see based on real data. It is particularly exciting to work on projects that go beyond my own discipline; projects which give me the opportunity to work with IT specialists, physicists, medics and psychologists. Pilots will soon be able to make autonomous use of virtual sensor sight, regardless of the weather conditions, and will thus be able to carry their passengers even more safely, and it will be easier for air ambulances to make a safe landing in the most inaccessible spots even in the most adverse weather conditions imaginable.”

The ‘Hunt’ for Particles

“Aeroplanes and clouds have always fascinated me. My work here at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen provides a link with both, aviation and meteorology. I have recently completed my thesis, which, like my present work, focused on the measurement and analysis of aerosol particles (such as desert sand or forest-fire aerosol). On the one hand, I analyse readings and publish the results, while on the other hand, I work in the lab on the instruments or fly in the research craft to obtain new data. ‘Hunting’ aerosol layers in flight is always exciting: are all the instruments working? Is the aerosol layer where it is supposed to be? Again and again, there are international research campaigns on the agenda: my work has taken me to Australia, Brazil, Morocco, France and, last but not least, Cape Verde. For those interested in aviation, Oberpfaffenhofen has an extra attraction: in addition to research work, you can join the DLR Flying Club and obtain a private flying licence. I would not want to give up the opportunity to fly during my lunch hour or after work!"

Dr Bernadett Weinzierl, young scientist at the DLR Institute for Atmospheric Physics


Created: 09/07/2008 14:50:00