Archive | March, 2016

female scientist

From South to North: female scientists in Europe

“A smart, independent young woman shuts her eyes, spins a globe, stabs it to a stop with her index finger and says, “There!” Travel comfemale scientistpanies and advertising agencies make millions from such clichés. And there is a time in an academic’s life – her PhD and first postdoc – when experiencing work overseas is relatively easy.

Of course, for many such women, the mobile phase of the life cycle doesn’t last long. Soon her desire to travel – indeed, the desire to do research at all – begins to compete with family commitments. Compromises must be made. But in spite of how far wKarin Bodewits et al., 2014omen have come in recent years, a lot still hangs on where exactly our scientist stops her globe. The kinds of work/family balances that can realistically be reached vary considerably from country to country. Occasionally even within individual countries the differences are extraordinary….”

In this article that we published in Chemistry Today we examine the problems faced by women in Europe who wish to combine a career in science with family life, focusing on the situation in Italy, Germany and Sweden. Our survey shows strong differences from country to country. Some nations have infrastructures of taxation or professional childcare that are very supportive of working mothers; in others women face not only logistical but also societal barriers that prevent them from achieving a healthy work/family balance. By comparing these countries’ attitudes and policies, we hope to find ideas worth importing in order to improve the lives of working women wherever they are.

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Natural scientist

“ I learned many things about life in industry, which I would not have learned at the university.“

Mark Zimmer (pseudonym), now lab head at a pharma giant, steered his PhD in industry. He told us why he made this decision, how he found the PhD position and what distinguishes an industrial PhD from an academic PhD.

Why a PhD in industry?
For me it was clear during my studies already that I was aiming to leave academia and have a career in industry. I like research, but rather the applied side of it.
Natural scientist

How did you find a PhD position in industry?
Well, it was a coincidence. I talked to the company on a job fair and asked if it would theoretically be possible to conduct an MSc or PhD thesis there. I was told that it is indeed possible in principle. As the Technical University, where I was studying at the time was not allowing for external MSc theses, I decided to wait until I had graduated. I then applied at the company and asked if I could start a PhD project. Lucky me, they were just about to write out a MSc project in exactly the same field as I already did my MSc thesis. They were afraid that the project might be slightly too challenging and time consuming for an MSc student, so they were happy to expand it to a full PhD project. The right man at the right time so to say!

Just deciding on doing a PhD in industry… you need a connection to the university as well to get a degree at the end.

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lady working in lab

Jobs in Industry: Production leader

shutterstock_123525319If industry as such is the „real life“, then production is the beating heart of this real life. Which challenges await a production leader, how does her everyday life look like?

The main task is carrying responsibility. That primarily refers to the production process itself, which has to run smoothly and often even 24 hours a day. That in turn only works with a sufficiently large team of engineers and technicians. The work is thus marked by large staff responsibility, which comes along with a range of interpersonal and bureaucratic tasks. The pace of the work is set by the production process itself, undisturbed working time is thus a rare good. There is another side to this coin, though, as described by this production leader:

“Academia was not making me happy, flat and simple.  I am the kind of person that needs goals and the feeling of achieving reasonably quickly. Academia requires a certain patience, and more devotion. I needed to work in a field where I could see the results from my work in a quicker fashion, and in manufacturing you see this batch after batch!”

And then there is the responsibility for lowering the cost for the production process as well as the staff while at the same time increasing productivity. That like a Gordian Knot, but let´s first of all take a look at how these tasks can be performed successfully. Planning, delegating, trusting and controlling are probably the most important instruments along this path. In order not to be crushed by the conflicting interests of management, staff and safety requirements, you need a very clear and open communication style.…

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Week 5 - Karin Bodewits_BB_090316

The Everyday Engagement project of Sparkol

Karin Bodewits is the founder of career platforms ScienceMums and NaturalScience.Careers in Munich. She’s the author of a career guide for female natural scientists, gives seminars and talks, and campaigns to help women bridge the gap between motherhood and career. Ffion Lindsay interviewed her for the The Everyday Engagement project of Sparkol. Here’s a collection of answers she gave during the interview.


You give a lot of talks. How to keep your nerves?

Turning negative energies into positive emotions.

Before every seminar and talk I feel nervous like most people do. But I just tell myself that I love this feeling of being nervous. It is exactly those moments that I think ‘YES, I am alive!’


Week 5 - Karin Bodewits_BB_090316How important is your body language for the success of your seminars? 

My body language sets the tone for the entire day.

I actively pay attention to people entering the seminar. If the situation allows, I shake their hands, make eye contact and give them a friendly smile. It’s not rocket science, but it definitely helps to have a good start. I constantly show that I am listening and if I make notes I clearly indicate that I am listening even though my body language might express something different.

During the seminar I make sure I do not cross my arms and try to keep neutral or positive body language even if people express things I disagree with. I do give my opinion though.


Do you find it difficult to engage with your customers?

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