Cooperation within the Executive Board and among project leaders

One of the most important goals of the EC2/BIG-NSE program is to further strengthen the networking between UniSysCat and other research networks in Berlin. This goal is reflected in the composition of the EC2/BIG-NSE Executive Board: Its ten members represent almost all of the nine institutions participating in the cluster. The same distribution among all participating institutions may be found for project leaders. See here list of all project leaders of UniSysCat involved in the EC2/BIG-NSE educational program.

The ten members of our Executive Board (Picture from Jan. 2019)

Networking at the recruitment level

The recruitment strategy of EC2/BIG-NSE also takes this aim into account: While candidates used to apply for a scholarship that allowed them to choose their research group by themselves, they now have to apply for a defined project proposal. These proposals are written jointly by at least two researchers ("supervisors") and have to be accepted by EC2/BIG-NSE's Executive Board before being published. They have to comply with previously defined rules aiming at reinforcing the interdisciplinary and network character of the offered project:

At least one of the "supervisors" has to be a project leader of UniSysCat
At least one of them should be active in another Berlin research network, such as another Cluster of Excellence, a Collaborative Research Center, a Research Training Group or a comparable research network.

A list of such networks may be found here. Other networks can be accepted by the Executive Board on a case-by-case basis. The lastest call for project proposals was held in September 2020. More than 10 proposals were submitted to our Executive Board, which accepted them all. They were included in a call for applications issued in October 2020 (deadline January 15, 2021). See here for the newest list of proposal, here for the previous year (WS20) one. In mid-May 2020, the seven best candidates were selected to work on seven of the submitted WS20 projects. This new procedure guarantees that all PhD topics worked on by our students will help reinforce networking (and interdisciplinary research) not only within UniSysCat groups, but also between the involved cluster groups and other Berlin research networks.

Candidates for a BIG-NSE scholarship posing with our UniCat mascot, the Uno bear

Using the UniSysCat network

However, there are also other forms of cooperation extending beyond the local ones. BIG-NSE has been part of the Cluster of Excellence UniCat since its foundation in 2007. This allowed its students cooperate intensively with all partners of the cluster itself. For example, many BIG-NSE students could profit from the intense cooperation between the cluster and BASF. In particular those who performed their PhD research on a topic involving BasCat, the joint BASF/UniCat project, could regularly bring their experience there to bear as a platform for joining BASF later on. To take another example: Many of our PhD students used their cooperation with a UniCat partner during their PhD research to find a PostDoc position after finishing their PhD. This is still true of the new cluster UniSysCat, even more so, since networking is rooted in the project by definition.

Excursion to the BasCat labs

Cooperation with industry

EC2/BIG-NSE derives great benefit from the Cluster of Excellence UniSysCat's close cooperation with industry partners.
At an institutional level, UniCat entered into a partnership with BASF in 2011, which resulted in the creation of the UniCat-BASF joint lab BasCat. This collaboration intensified when UniSysCat took over in 2019. A new building was constructed, offering about 1000 m2 of lab and office space; four lab were opened: Catalysis Lab, Reactor Analysis Lab, Synthesis Lab, and ALD; The research is performed in three research groups: Catalysis and Reactor Analysis, Catalysis and Modeling, and Synthesis and Surface Modification of Catalysts. More than 20 scientists work at BasCat, including 7 postdocs and 13 PhDs, as well as MSc and BSc students and scientific assistants. Several of our PhD students have had the opportunity to write their PhD at one of the BasCat labs, or in close cooperation with BasCat. Some of them were even funded by BasCat. Dr. Frank Rosowski is one of the members of our Recruitment Committee. Occasionally, when one of our candidate's research fits that conducted at BasCat, he can decide to offer her or him one of the BasCat PhD scholarships or positions. Thanks to BasCat, and the close cooperation between BASF and our cluster/center/school, some of our students have received an invitation to the annual BASF Summer School, which is a good opportunity to attract the attention of BASF recruiters. Some of these students eventually receive a job offer from BASF: So far, at least six BIG-NSE alumni work or have worked for BASF or a BASF-supported institution (like CaRla, the joint lab of BASF and University of Heidelberg). For details, see the alumni list.

However, our cooperation with industry does not end at BASF. At the research group level, many professors cooperate with a company from the industrial sector. Occasionally, when representatives of these companies come to visit their UniSysCat partner, some of our students are invited to present their work. Many of our students also establish contact with companies while working on their PhD and then receive a job offer from them when they finish.
As a result, approximately one third of our alumni now have a job as a researcher or senior researcher in the industry, in Germany or abroad. Their employers include Novartis/CH, Genentech/Roche, Atotech Berlin, PCK Schwedt, Sandoz/CH, Air Liquide/Frankfurt, BASF/Ludwigshafen, Shell/Amsterdam, Bosch/Berlin, Evonik/Frankfurt, Biopetrolia/ Gothenburg, Sweden, Boehringer Ingelheim/Lörrach, BASF/New-York, Continental AG/Hannover, hte/Heidelberg, Clariant AG/Brückmuhl), KAO Germany GmbH, Total/Brussels, and BASF Shanghai. A few of these alumni work for SMEs, like DSR Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH /Berlin, Orafol/Oranenburg, PV Crystalox Solar Silicon in Bitterfeld, Dr. Türck Ingenieurbüro, Berlin, etc.. See our alumni list for the full list of industry partners.

Last but not least, UniSysCat founded Inkulab and CIF in order to encourage students to continue developing their research ideas and possibly bring them to the industry market. Read here for more about this opportunity.

Visit from recruiters from a big German chemical company

The Inkulab team 2019 (including three BIG-NSE alumni)

Cooperation in education

The educational program of our school/center owes its existence to the strong involvement of all UniSysCat project groups participating in it. Project leaders regularly give the "basic lectures" that constitute one of the pillars of the "initial phase" (IP) program. They also coordinate the "excursions" to their laboratories, another highlight of the IP. Moreover they actively participate at the annual "EC2/BIG-NSE" retreat, where our students report to the faculty on the progress of their PhD work. During the research phase, the PhD students also profit from their group's existing bonds to other research groups at a local, national or international level. Here you can find a non-exhaustive list reflecting how highly "networked" the supervisors of our most recent PhD students are.

Excursion to a lab of the "Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin" (HZB) participating in UniSysCat

EC2/BIG-NSE cooperation at the institutional level

Finally, EC2/BIG-NSE also profits as an institution itself from collaboration with many other institutions, such as other doctoral programs in Berlin (e.g. BMS, BiMoS, Salsa, other Einstein Centers etc.). For exampl, our students regularly engage in such collaboration by taking part in joint seminars. The TU-based Office for Doctoral and Postdoctoral Services "TU-Doc" also regularly offers social skill courses that are open to our students. Similar courses are offered by from the equivalent offices at FUB, HUB, and UP. Our students also sometimes take courses offered at FHI, MPI-KGF or FMP.  Finally EC2/BIG-NSE cooperates regularly with TU-based institutions, like ZEMS or ZEWK, in order to extend the opportunities available to its students.

An English proficiency evaluation test performed at ZEMS