»Being an Inspiration and Role Model«

Femtec Excursion: A Day at the Fraunhofer Center in Kaiserslautern

On March 12, 2020, 31 outstanding female STEM students from universities all over Germany visited the Fraunhofer Center in Kaiserslautern. The Femtec network scholarship holders, most of them with an international background, got to know both Fraunhofer Institutes better during a varied program.

The participants were not only given a guided tour of the Fraunhofer ITWM and the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE, the program of the day excursion also included creative workshops on digital twins and presentations on projects in image processing and vehicle development. Divided into small groups, they tried out the RODOS vehicle simulator for themselves, for example, and had in-depth discussions with scientists at round tables.

Role Models and Their Own Story Behind Science

What the young women all have in common is that they are studying a STEM subject and therefore belong to the Femtec network. In their day-to-day studies, they deal with very different subject areas – from electrical engineering and information systems management to data science or molecular medicine, many courses are represented. The advantage of the heterogeneous focus for us at the Fraunhofer ITWM is that applied mathematics is always a common denominator in all STEM degree programs.

It was important to the organizers of the Fraunhofer Institutes to offer a broad program in order to show the diversity. »In addition to providing an insight into everyday working life in applied research, the event focused on networking and direct exchange. As role models, our female scientists presented their career paths and their very own stories behind science,« reports Isabelle Dieckhoff. She helped organize the event on behalf of the Fraunhofer ITWM.

One of these role models is Dr. Isabel Michel. In the lecture »MESHFREE and More«, she spoke about her mathematical work in the department »Transport Processes« and the software tool MESHFREE, but also about her numerous cross-departmental activities, for example in the Scientific-Technical Council (WTR) or the TALENTA funding program. »I was really amazed at how many questions the students asked – everything from a very specific interest in our software method to my everyday life at Fraunhofer ITWM was included.« Isabel's biggest challenge: time management and finding the right balance, not only between family and career, but also between research and mathematics at the institute on the one hand and administrative and management tasks on the other.

Dr. Neele Leithäuser on the left and Dr. Isabel Michel on the right networking with a Femtec scholarship holder.
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Dr. Neele Leithäuser on the left and Dr. Isabel Michel on the right networking with a Femtec scholarship holder.

Program Highlights and Scholarship Holders' Future Plans

Most of the young female students went to the event with the expectation of learning more about the Fraunhofer Institutes as an employer, but »making personal contacts« and »insights into the life of a researcher« or »information about doctoral opportunities« were also on the wish list of the Femtec group.

After the event, many could even imagine working in research. Marie Laufens was one of them. »My future plans are to do a doctorate, work in industry, but also in research. I just want to try out different things«. She is studying »Molecular and Applied Biotechnology« at RWTH Aachen University and has already heard a lot about the Fraunhofer world due to the university's location with several institutes. The Femtec excursion has now brought this to life.

Theresia Krol has similar career plans and is already paving the way for them with her degree in Materials Science at the University of Stuttgart: »I really enjoyed the day. My highlights were the networking over lunch, the round table discussions with female managers and the creativity workshop.«

Yonca Kanci in conversation at one of the networking opportunities.
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Yonca Kanci in conversation at one of the networking opportunities.

Yonca Kanci also has a positive memory of this workshop, in which solutions for the smart city were developed as a team. She is studying »Environmental Engineering« at the University of Stuttgart and wants to use her job to create added value in environmental protection later on. »I can imagine working in applied research, but I'm still open to all options,« says the 24-year-old. However, she is already certain of one thing: »I want to be an inspiration and role model for young girls in the future.«

In the spirit of the Femtec events, she may become one of the scientific role models herself in a few years' time. The young talents who visited us were already impressive and inspiring. We wish them continued success in their studies and career start!

Our Role Models on the Femtec Excursion 2024