I wanted to stay in Germany after my Master degree from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and yet I turned my back on the German research landscape. This was almost exactly one year ago. Currently I am a Rolls-Royce research scholar doing a doctorate degree at the University of Oxford. Therefore I am part of the so-called brain drain to the United Kingdom.
My reason for leaving was based on the motivation to gain international research experience considering the increasingly difficult career situation of junior academics in Germany. Oxford offered me a dynamic international environment. This environment is fundamental for me to expand my soft skills, to learn new ways of thinking and to build an international network thus increasing my chances to find a position in Germany after my PhD.
However, I also know that approximately 40% of young German researchers who work at foreign research institutes don’t make it back to Germany. From personal experience I think a main reason for this is the shift of their professional network centre to their current abode. To counteract this shift and to engage with fellow German material scientists back home I recently joined the Board of Education of the DGM, the so-called “Ausbildungsausschuss”.
In 2012, I was part of the very first DGM “Nachwuchsforum” in Cologne. The aim of this meeting was to discuss ways through which the DGM could support up-and-coming scientists on their very individual career paths. One important conclusion was to establish a shared identity within the DGM. Since our profession is truly interdisciplinary a first step was made towards a common identity which is now summed up by the portmanteau word “MatWerk” comprising the word “Materialwissenschaft for materials science” and “Werkstofftechnik for materials engineering”.
Today I would like to raise attention to the fact that the DGM is not only a highly interdisciplinary community, but more than ever becoming a transnational community in two respects; firstly we consist of international scientists working in Germany and secondly of young German scientists going to other countries. We need to address the question how to actively engage with young German scientists in foreign countries and encourage them to maintain close contact with the DGM, thus facilitate a possible return to Germany.
To move country is difficult, whether it is away from Germany or vice versa. I would not be in Oxford without the enormous support and personal engagement of my former colleges at Karlsruhe and I am firmly convinced the DGM has the potential not to impede junior academics to leave but to alleviate the problems associated with the return back to Germany.
I look forward discussing this matter with the community.
Doctoral Researcher at the University of Oxford, Department of Materials
Member of the Board of Education of the German Society for Materials Science