Author Archive | NaturalScienceCareers

Microbiology

For my own account! And not just for the Hirsch Index of my supervisor…

 

MicrobiologyAn interview with Dr. Kerstin Seyfarth

My interview partner of today shares the fate of many young scientists: she works for a few months here, then only for a mere few weeks there, sometimes even for just a single day! Has the world of science gone mad, does she get completely screwed over with these balkanised repeat fixed-term contracts? And how does Dr. Kerstin Seyfarth react to her own situation? Well, as happy as people are when they are very satisfied with their professional activities. She is not a battered academic on the non-tenure-track from postdoc project to yet another postdoc project, but a freelancer who is offering her services through the portal www.naturwissenschaftliche-beratung.de (Email: kerstin.seyfarth@gmx.de). Thus she is not even aiming for anything else but to work in different projects for different employers. Her strengths lie in the consultation of companies regarding hygiene issues, which can be tackled with microbiological techniques, particularly within the GMP (good manufacturing practice) environment.

Dr. Seyfarth, I didn´t know that there is an established freelancer market for your field of expertise?

That´s because there isn´t one, there was not a queue in front of my door straight away. It was new for many companies that these kinds of issues can be addressed with external staff- or that these topics would be relevant for them in the first place! The feedback was mostly positive and I got my first contacts.

How did you get to these contacts?

Some through cold calls. Trade fairs are also very interesting.…

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Books_ the sexual paradox

Susan Pinker: The sexual paradox

Is it possible to write a book which is very firmly based on sociological data but still happens to be a real page-turner? Susan Pinker manages to do just that.

Books_ the sexual paradoxWhy is it that women, who tend to do at least as well as men at university, still seem to be stuck when it comes to reach the highest levels of organisational hierarchies? Considering a plethora of gender-specific aspects of our workplaces, the book boils down to a reason deeply entrenched within women and/or our working cultures: whereas men tend to get happier as they move up the ladder, women don´t. This can in principle have two reasons. On the one hand, women have broader aims in life, being less inclined to push private interests and obligations aside in order to reach the top levels. On the other hand, women didn´t “sit on the table” 200 years ago, when the ground rules of our modern work culture have been set, which gave men a head start ever since.
Susan Pinker concludes with an important point to policymakers, which is often forgotten in the highly emotional debate about gender topics on the labour market: equality of opportunity does not lead to equality of outcome. The aim can and should not be to have a 50/50 gender distribution in all subjects from engineering to nursing, these inequalities can be signs of an enlightened society, in which individuals can make their own decisions. So, the page-turner is also a real eye-opener.…
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FH Professor

Professorships at Universities of Applied Sciences

FH Professor

The following text refers to professorships at Fachhochschulen (FH, now often called “University of Applies Sciences”) in Germany. These have certain peculiarities, which differ to those in other countries.

When thinking about academic careers, we tend to only think of universities, while forgetting about the FHs. The differences between these two types of “university” go deeper than just the name: lectures, in-house research as well as permanent academic support staff are almost non-existent at FHs, so that the term college teacher describes these professors quite well. Teaching is the main part of the workload and due to the missing support staff, you´ll need to do more things by yourself. Bachelor and Master degrees can be obtained at an FH, the latter makes you eligible to do a PhD as a Master degree from a university does. Handing out PhDs, however, remains reserved to universities. Research internships and Master theses are typically done in partnership with industry, so that the FH professors need to bring along experiences and a broad network from outside of the academic world. To account for this, the central job requirement is five years of professional experience, of which at least three have to come from outside of the universities. The quality of the seminars has to be showcased during the interview in front of a mixed panel of students and professors.

Professorships are usually compensated at W2 level. A typical week consists of three days working at the FH, then one day for corrections and preparations. The fifth day of the week should be kept for your own contacts outside of the FH, e. …

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Good read: The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz

“If you book_thehardthingsabouthardthingshave to eat shit, don´t nibble.” Advice for running a company when the sun is not shining, when there are no good solutions, when you have to choose between catastrophic and cataclysmic.
Leadership books tend to be written by MBA graduates who write about successful people sailing through to success. Ben Horowitz calls this peacetime leaders, which is but one side of the medal when running a company or taking any other responsible position in an organisation. However, things don´t go smooth all the time, and that´s when wartime leaders come in. Ben Horowitz was CEO of a tech company during the dotcom crash and had to go public in order to avoid bankruptcy- at a time when “tech company” was synonymous to “syphilis” on the stock markets.  In other words he´s got his fair share of wartime leadership experience. Politeness and positive activation of your staff´s creative side are peacetime techniques. In wartime, they get replaced by deliberately used swearwords and sometimes even threats, a wartime technique for setting clear aims: “I don´t give a fuck how well trained you are. If you don´t bring me five hundred thousand dollars a quarter, I am putting a bullet in your head”- to quote Mark Cranney, his treasured Head of Sales.
The author thereby creates clarity in the book itself as well, which conventional textbooks could not yield: Delivering criticism should for instance not be done by using the “shit sandwich” of the well-known triad of positive-negative-positive points you raise, but plain and simple.…
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