Back in the day, Thorsten Sommer completed his graduation thesis at DLR. Now, 11 years later, he is returning to study peer-to-peer networks at the DLR Simulation and Software Technology facility. An interview about science and industry, working at DLR and walking long distances.
Thorsten, how did you enjoy the first few days at DLR?
Thorsten Sommer: The first days were incredibly exciting and interesting. My initial impressions were amazing, and I haven’t even gone on the tour for new employees. So far I’ve only seen all the buildings from outside, but it really does look very impressive.
Have you taken a look around the grounds yet?
Yes, I had to go to the administration building at the other end of the complex. I underestimated the distance, and it was boiling hot in the sun (laughs). But the first few days here in the department were exciting as well. I got to know the projects and noticed that they really are top quality. Very impressive!
What brought you to DLR?
My case is a little out of the ordinary. I wrote my graduation thesis at DLR in Göttingen around 11 years ago. So I even knew the complex in Cologne, as we were invited to present our graduation theses there on German Aerospace Day. I still remember how much I enjoyed that great time. The staff were really friendly and treated me as an equal. So that’s why I thought: “Go on, give it another try!”
The job is also a good match with my profile, as I was already working in academia and would like to remain in the field. Apparently, I belong to the rare breed that doesn’t go to work in the industrial sector. So naturally, DLR is a brilliant place to work and a fantastic opportunity to improve my scientific credentials.
What do you find so fascinating about science?
Thinking outside the box. The fact that I’m able to adopt crazy, creative approaches to discover new methods and solutions – even if the industrial sector isn’t willing to foot the bill yet. Perhaps 50 years from now we’ll find out that the market is actually worth billions.
So the topicality of the field is also important?
You could say that, yes. I wrote my doctoral thesis about artificial intelligence. That’s certainly a hyped issue that is currently the subject of discussion. Here in the scientific community, we attempt to develop new solutions and methods. That automatically ensures that these issues are topical.
What is your current task in the Simulation and Software Technology facility?
I’m part of the RCE Team (Remote Component Environment; a distributed platform with software components like a workflow engine; Ed.) that is working to advance RCE. It seems likely that I will be mainly involved with peer-to-peer networks. So it will mean developing new functions and conducting research into this field as well.
What are your goals in this area?
In the longer term, I would like to see my research issues becoming integral to the facility’s work. That would mean I would also be able to work in the field of artificial intelligence. My goal is to introduce the topics either to the RCE Team here or the department as a whole.
Do you see potential for that at RCE?
I believe that the position I now hold is an excellent stepping stone to conduct further work in the field of artificial intelligence. In my view, the issues of artificial intelligence and peer-to-peer networks will merge, sooner or later. So being able to research peer-to-peer networks here at DLR is certainly a wonderful starting point for me.
Is there something you are looking forward to especially?
I am looking forward to the atmosphere at work, that I already enjoyed so much during my first period here years ago. The first weeks have already shown me that the same positive vibe is present here and at the site in Cologne. People are cordial to each other, you are respected by your colleagues and superiors and feel there is an open culture to discuss new ideas. These things should go without saying, but regrettably it’s not the case everywhere.
Is that another source of motivation for your work?
The fashionable buzzword for it is work-life balance. But that’s not a hollow phrase at DLR. After working here for a week, I can truly say that there’s a very healthy work-life balance. So of course I find that very motivating, in addition to the professional opportunities.