IVW expressly acknowledges the high importance of international exchange,
both for the professional qualification of individuals
and for the scientific quality of research at IVW.
On this account, IVW is sending scientists and scholars every year to research institutions abroad and at the same time affording outstanding foreign guest scientists research stays at IVW. The exchange is promoted at the level of established researchers as well as the level of young scientists in order to enhance the development of the Institute and its staff in many ways:
This is accomplished through national and international funding opportunities such as those of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation, and foreign programmes such as the Marie Curie Fellowships (EU) or the Chinese Scholarship Council. In this way, more than 100 exchanges have been enabled since 2010.
I participated in the DAAD Rise Professional Internship Program in 2021 as a researcher at Leibniz-institut für Verbundwerkstoffe(IVW). I am writing to share my internship experience and my impression for the research and life in Germany.
During the 3rd year of my Ph.D. study, I was searching for an internship, hoping to gain experience outside of the academic lab of my university. I came across the DAAD Rise professional program through a friend's introduction. I was very excited to hear about the program because it offers a variety of projects/companies and an opportunity to travel and live in another country for a short period of time. I was fortunate to be selected as a research intern at IVW.
To prepare for the start of the internship, as an international student in the US, I need to obtain a Schengen visa to enter Germany. The visa application process was straightforward. The material DAAD sent was very helpful and the visa application went smoothly. Regarding other preparation to get started, I received a lot of help from my supervisors and colleague at IVW on housing and program coordinator Annkristen and other DAAD interns on traveling tips, sim card and bank account set-up. Thanks to the support from IVW and DAAD, I was able to reach Germany and adjust to my life there easily and quickly.
The research I am doing at IVW is about designing bio-composite material based on natural fibers. In particular, I worked on investigating the thermal properties of natural fibers, making correlations with their compositions, and applying treatment methods to improve their thermal properties. It is a different research field from my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Pittsburgh. However, it was good to learn that I could quickly transfer the skills (literature reading, characterization, experience with experiments) I obtained during my Ph.D. training to a different research domain. After catching up through reading literature, I successfully conducted meaningful experiments and acquired preliminary results for a research proposal.
As a research institute, IVW is also connected to the technical university of Kaiserslautern. My impression of the research here is not very different from the US. Graduate students work on several projects with their advisors with collaborations between groups, universities, and research institutes. One difference is that, as the research institute, IVW also helps many companies such as BASF to examine their samples, and there are many experienced lab technicians who help with the testing. As a graduate student working at a research institute, you could get exposed to many interesting projects from different companies.
A typical day of my internship involves running some characterization experiments on the natural fibers while analyzing and understanding the previous results. It also involves looking up literature to solve problems or get ideas about the next experiment to try and discussing with my colleagues and supervisor about the results and plans next.
I really enjoyed the time of my internship. On the academic side, it was good to expand on my research experience through working in a different research field. I enjoyed solving research problems and was happy to have an interesting topic to work with. The research question kept me curious and engaged with the project, and I was excited to see that some of my ideas worked out in the end. Outside of the research, I also learned how to connect with colleagues in a new environment, which would be helpful for my next job after graduation.
Outside of work, I also traveled around Germany during the weekends. I went to many cities, including Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin. Each place has its unique characteristics and is worth visiting. My favorites are Heidelberg and Berlin. I remembered the beautiful castle and bridges in Heidelberg and its academic touch from the Heidelberg University, which has an ancient history. I also liked Berlin for its mixed culture and the interesting stories on how people endured and adapted at difficult times.
Overall, I would recommend the RISE program. I think it is a great opportunity to get additional learning outside graduate school and get perspective about the skills you have obtained or need to obtain for transition after graduation. In addition, it provides the opportunity to travel to Europe and to get to know different cultures. The Rise professional internship was a precious experience for me. I want to save the last sentences from thanking everyone who has helped me during the internship program. I want to thank Dr. Barbara Güttler and Sonja Adler for guiding my research and helping with my daily living in Germany; my colleges at IVW for their help and support during my internship; Annkristen from DAAD for organizing the program and helping out on short notices; lastly, my Ph.D. advisor Dr. Götz Veser for his support for my internship.