Unsere Forscher*innen des Monats

NOVEMBER 2021

Amit Loewenthal

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The care given to recycling and energy saving.“

Amit Loewenthal

Age: 35 | Nationality: Israeli | Duration of Stay: 1 year

Field of study / work: Economics

 

What is the best food from your home country?

Falafel is not unique to my country and is popular around the Middle East. However, each place has a slightly different take on it, and I, of course, prefer the one back home.

What do you miss most from back home?

My family and friends.

What would you show visiting friends and family in Potsdam and Berlin?

Park Sanssouci and the Potsdam Palaces.

What's your favourite café and dinner place?

I have not been here long enough to pick a favorite place. Still, there's a small Biergarten I like called Plantagenklause, not far from my home.

What's your favourite place to go for a walk or a bike tour?

Around South Babelsberg and Griebnitzsee.

What's the song you listen most to at the moment?

I enjoy listening to jazz/vintage covers of modern songs by artists such as Postmodern Jukebox. Lately, as it got colder, I've been listening quite a lot to their cover of "Sweater Weather."

Tell us shortly about your research: What are you working on and how did your interest for this field or topic start?

I study how political violence affects the labor market and how economic conditions affect political preferences. My case study is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. My interest in the topic started from a general interest in the causes and consequences of economic inequality and from growing up during the Second Intifada and witnessing the cost of conflict firsthand.

Do you have a "fun fact "about your studies / research topic?

Unfortunately, when you research violent political conflicts, most of the facts you run into are not fun. However, this research has positive policy implications. For example, it shows us how job creation and humanitarian aid can encourage people to seek peaceful solutions instead of violent ones.

Your advice for fellow scholars:

Choose a research topic you are passionate about it. Otherwise, you are going to spend a long time working on something you don't like.

Your future plans:

An interesting career at a good research institute.

 

Amit Loewenthal

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The care given to recycling and energy saving.“

OKTOBER 2021

Judy Chebly

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„I can list several positive outcomes: I had more time to work on my Ph.D. applications and this ended up with me obtaining one. Furthermore, I started exercising and got more fit, plus I discovered my interest in drawing realistic portraits (I’ve been drawing ever since). In addition, I started practicing the electric guitar which was something I wanted to do a long time ago.“

Judy J. Chebly

Age: 26 years | Nationality: Lebanese | Field of study / work: Modelling-Simulation and Observational Astrophysics Ph.D. candidate at the Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam

 

My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin / surroundings:

I haven’t been to many places yet, but I think Potsdam is a lovely town that grasp the vibe of a painting. Not to mention the beautiful parks.

The most surprising thing about Germany?

The meaning behind the historical and cultural monuments in Potsdam. In addition to the sustainable, accessible and affordable mobility provided by Tier mobility. The fact that people leave the items that they no longer want outside so that others can take what they need from them. Last but not least, German’s love for Kabab and Falafel!

My advice for fellow scholars:

Drawing your own course can be scary but probably it is worth it and it will most likely pay off. Even if you’re an introvert don’t be afraid to take initiatives and engage in activities that provide rich opportunities to learn. Moreover, be forthright and trustworthy in all of your interactions with others. Lastly, be determined to succeed even in the face of challenging obstacles, and always remember that your potential is not defined by your grades.

My future plans:

After the Ph.D. I will broaden my horizons by pursuing a post-doctoral position to prepare myself adequately for a promising career in Astrophysics. I will pursue a faculty position at a research-active university, continuing in my efforts to both explain the Universe and pass on my wisdom to future generations.

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

I was in my hometown in Lebanon

How did the lockdown affect your (professional) life?

It didn’t really affect my professional life. In fact I found it suitable for me giving the fact that I just need my laptop to work.

 

Judy Chebly

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„I can list several positive outcomes: I had more time to work on my Ph.D. applications and this ended up with me obtaining one. Furthermore, I started exercising and got more fit, plus I discovered my interest in drawing realistic portraits (I’ve been drawing ever since). In addition, I started practicing the electric guitar which was something I wanted to do a long time ago.“

AUGUST 2021

Farzad N. Motlagh

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us firmly back to the fundamentals. However, we have to find joy in every small thing and change our mindset about daily life before the pandemic.“

Farzad N. Motlagh

Age: 33 years | Nationality: Iranian | Field of study / work: Information Technology

 

The most surprising thing about Germany?

Recycling is a great thing, and the people of Germany seem to know that. 

My advice for fellow scholars:

Be kind, be patient.

My future plans:

Post-doc

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

At home, work from distance.

Is there anything you are appreciating more now?

Before the pandemic, I’m not sure I could explain how science is powerful. The situation is just more obvious at the moment.

Do you have any idea or suggestion for our community/what we could do in this time?

In post-COVID is the best period for some special sectors to use customers’ sensitive information. Hotels and airlines, For instance, have access to a list of vaccinated individuals to confirm their health status. In my opinion, it is time to have an outstanding collaboration between government, academia, and industry to protect individuals’ sensitive information.

 

Farzad N. Motlagh

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us firmly back to the fundamentals. However, we have to find joy in every small thing and change our mindset about daily life before the pandemic.“

JULI 2021

Poulami Roy

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The most surprising thing about Germany which I appreciate is Women safety. I really like the fact that I can travel here alone at midnight.“

Poulami Roy

Age: 28 | Nationality: Indian | Field of study / work: Geophysics, Geodynamic modeling

 

My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin / surroundings:

My favorite places include Cecilienhof park, Alter Markt in Potsdam and of course Indian stores in Berlin where I can have green and red hot chilies. :-)

My advice for fellow scholars:

Learn to live alone. The more you rise up in your life, the more you will be alone. Just do your work but expect less. It is okay to be alone, but never feel lonely. Do a lot more networking and ask questions. There is no lame question. So, do not be shy and keep moving.

My future plans:

I have started my PhD this year. So, I am now building the model setup as I am working on numerical modeling. I hope to showcase my work in different conferences and get some feedback from fellow researchers. Finally, I really wish to publish my work in some good journals.

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

I have been in my home country India when the pandemic first started in March 2020. There was a strict lockdown and I spent my time with my parents at home.

How did the lockdown affect your (professional) life?

Due to the lockdown, my arrival in Germany got delayed. Even after arrival, I was working from home for 4-5 months. I guess the initial period of PhD requires day to day meetings with supervisor and fellow students to get the idea about the research project, how to practically write code and do the simulation. But I barely met people due to the lockdown. So, my work has slowed down. Apart from work, it creates a lot of mental pressure when you just arrive a new country and get yourself locked in a room for several months. When I came in January, the banks, city registration office all were closed/ or working with skeleton staffs. So, it was really difficult for me to pay my rent, but somehow with the help of my supervisor that was managed. So, yes, lockdown has a huge impact in my life.

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?

Yes, of course. One can only bear these months if he/she has a very positive outlook. I can spend more time in cooking as I can’t cook before coming to Germany.  Through these days, I started to learn how to live alone and how to take care of myself on my own. As the supermarkets were always open, I got the opportunity to explore German veggies, sausages and drinks which were really new to me and exciting as well.

Is there anything you are appreciating more now?

After going through the period of pandemic since 2020, I realized it is very important to spend more time with family or at least keep in touch with them. It gives you and your family mental stability. I do appreciate all the volunteers and doctors who came forward to serve people in this harsh time.

Do you have any idea or suggestion for our community/what we could do in this time?

It is very important to keep our community motivated in this time. My suggestion is to organize frequent zoom meet-ups where senior PhD fellows can present their work. Since there are some relaxations of COVID related rules now, introducing in person workshops will be very useful for the research students. Most importantly, research fellows have lost significant amount of time due to this pandemic, so, it is very necessary to extend the period of fellowship/scholarship in order to retrieve our work.

Poulami Roy

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The most surprising thing about Germany which I appreciate is Women safety. I really like the fact that I can travel here alone at midnight.“

APRIL 2021

Sam Baguley

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The cultural diversity! It seems like every region has it’s own dialect, and own type of Wurst. I travelled a lot in Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz when I was living in Mannheim, and I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of Germany up north.“

Sam Baguley

Age: 27 | Nationality: British | Field of study / work: Probability theory, now moving into Algorithm Engineering

 

My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin / surroundings:

I love the Botanical Gardens in Berlin. They have a peaceful atmosphere, and the greenhouses are huge. I went for the first time in 2016 when I was visiting my sister. It was the day after the Brexit vote, blazing sunshine (at least from my British perspective), and we walked around the gardens talking for hours.

My advice for fellow scholars:

Embrace your failures, and learn from them. A few gifted people can see the path to a research goal and walk it easily, the rest of us have to make our way forward step-by-step, and failure is an inevitable part of that. There is no shame in making mistakes. Also, a mathematicians perspective: be concise, be precise.

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

I was in my WG in Mannheim, where I was finishing my PhD. I live in the city centre, and it was very odd to see it so deserted. Like a ghost town! Fortunately spring arrived early, and I was able to ride my bike along the Rhein most days.

How did the lockdown affect your (professional) life?

I found it hard to focus on anything. It felt like living in greyscale. I wrote my thesis over the summer and submitted it in August, and the writing process was very intense because I had literally nothing else to do. Fortunately maths can be done pretty much anywhere, and since everyone learnt how to use zoom I can now collaborate with colleagues in different places much more easily!

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?

I began to speak farmore regularly with my family, which is something we have continued. I can’t believe how little we used to speak! Aside from that I can’t see many positives, though I am of course grateful to still have my health, many people have had a worse time than me. I don’t mean to sound too gloomy, but I will be very happy when normality returns!

Is there anything you are appreciating more now?

I definitely have a better appreciation of my relationships with friends and family, and of how important it is to me to spend time in nature. I’ve also learnt to appreciate the value of having a calm and focused mind. As they say, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

Sam Baguley

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The cultural diversity! It seems like every region has it’s own dialect, and own type of Wurst. I travelled a lot in Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz when I was living in Mannheim, and I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of Germany up north.“

MÄRZ 2021

Gláuber Pontes Rodrigues

Do you have any idea or suggestion for our community/what we could do in this time?,

„We live in times of denial of scientifically based facts (anti-vaccine and anti-mask protests erupt around the world). It is necessary for us researches to make a self-assessment and think about alternatives to disseminate scientific knowledge in a more accessible way to the population. It is not enough to take information, but to know how to transmit, because so much information we receive daily, many think they are “specialists in everything”. Research is not an easy task, it can be frustrating many times, but we must seek strength in these adversities. In addition, we must be in solidarity with those who do not have the opportunity to be in privileged places that we are now (as an internationally known University, for instance) and without access to basic dignity at a time when the pandemic showed that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest only increases.“

Glaúber Pontes Rodrigues

Age: 28 years | Nationality: Brazilian | Field of study / work: Hydrology (PhD student at Institut für Umweltwissenschaften und Geographie)

 

My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin / surroundings:

That was hard because I cannot choose one place in Potsdam (and I am glad I saw everything with and without snow): Park Babelsberg, Park Sanssouci, the Neues Palais campus (which is in my way from home to the Golm campus), Alter Markt, the bridge over the Havel near the Filmmuseum…

The most surprising thing about Germany?

Several things surprised me. The first was the friendliness of the German people and the effort to help. The cliché of the severe and rigid German no longer makes sense and has fallen apart since the first moment in the Airport. So far everyone has been genuinely nice to help me catch a train, for example, or to give me information. However, in the supermarket, things change a bit… In Brazil, I considered myself someone who packs my own purchases fast, but the Germans do this as if they were already taught since childhood! It is not uncommon to go to the market and receive looks disapproving my packaging speed. Also, the prices of things surprised me positively, the basic items are really cheap (and so is the beer).

My advice for fellow scholars:

Try to talk about your research subject with your colleagues and even with people from outside your work environment. Some excellent contributions to your research can come from everywhere. Also, don’t feel intimidated by the language (but don't underestimate it). Surround yourself with German, listening, reading, speaking... German grammar can give you a headache, but over time things start to flow. Try to organize weekly schedules, daily goals, for example, always keeping in mind that it is not easy at all and trying to learn everything fast can create traumas and blockages.

My future plans:

My internship in Potsdam only lasts one year, so I must return to Brazil to develop my last year of the PhD and defend my Thesis. I hope to find a much better place than the one I said goodbye in January and share the knowledge acquired in this short period in Potsdam. In the short term I intend to improve my programming skills (for my research and because it is something very well seen here in Germany). In the medium term, I intend to write a relevant article about my research (which covers evaporation in reservoirs in the Brazilian semiarid and climate change scenarios). In the long term I plan to return to Germany, as a post doc, who knows... Returning or not, I expect to contribute to the development of my region with better understanding of the hydrological processes in the Brazilian semiarid region.

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

I was in my city (Fortaleza, northeast of Brazil), where the first Covid cases arose in March 2020.

How did the lockdown affect your (professional) life?

At the beginning of the restrictive measures, I was conducting my experiment in a lake located in the neighbouring city. It was hard because the restrictive measures made travel less and less frequent and we had to remove the experiment from the lake. Luckily, we collected enough data, and I came to Germany with that already recorded. So, from now on I don't need to go to the field anymore, a laptop with the programs I need and an internet connection are enough.

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?

As I could no longer attend the university restaurant at the Brazilian university and spend all day at home, I developed skills in the kitchen; in Germany I realized that I could manage with (almost) any culinary ingredient. In addition, in Potsdam I am riding more bicycle than I have ever been in my life, and this is great even for mental health.

Is there anything you are appreciating more now?

I am enjoying more time alone. It is difficult, but necessary, mainly because PhD research is somewhat solitary. I am able to entertain myself (and speaking English and German out loud alone, I recommend it to anyone who is learning languages).

Gláuber Pontes Rodrigues

Do you have any idea or suggestion for our community/what we could do in this time?,

„We live in times of denial of scientifically based facts (anti-vaccine and anti-mask protests erupt around the world). It is necessary for us researches to make a self-assessment and think about alternatives to disseminate scientific knowledge in a more accessible way to the population. It is not enough to take information, but to know how to transmit, because so much information we receive daily, many think they are “specialists in everything”. Research is not an easy task, it can be frustrating many times, but we must seek strength in these adversities. In addition, we must be in solidarity with those who do not have the opportunity to be in privileged places that we are now (as an internationally known University, for instance) and without access to basic dignity at a time when the pandemic showed that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest only increases.“

JANUAR 2021

Mitali Damle

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„Certainly! Just like every dark cloud is laced by a silver lining, there have been quite some positives for me. Working from home meant I saved commute time and in general, had more time which was available for other things. With the gyms and other sporting facilities being shut, going outdoors for a daily run became a routine for me. In the process, I was able to discover quite many hidden, beautiful spots in my neighborhood (which I, otherwise, might have not had the chance to explore). I also started sketching again, started reading books more regularly and experienced a renewed interest in cooking. I guess, over the course of past few months, my mental strength has increased a bit and I now feel less terrified when I think about the uncertainty that accompanies this pandemic.“

Mitali Damle

Age: 29 years | Nationality: Indian | Field of study / work: (2nd year) PhD student in Astrophysics

 

Where were you during the first months of the pandemic?

I had just returned from a trip from my home country, India, when the news of a possible lockdown started surfacing here in Germany. During the initial couple of months of lockdown, I was holed up in my apartment in Potsdam and was entirely working in home office.

How did the lockdown affect your (professional) life?

Though, thankfully, the pandemic did not directly affect me or my near ones, overall, it certainly had a significant impact on my professional life. Firstly, coming to grips with this sort of a situation and the accompanying unique restrictions took some substantial amount of time for me. Luckily, my field and topic does not require any specific work setup; a laptop and a good internet connection is all I need to get on with my work. However, the nature of a PhD usually means working individually most of the time and therefore, chatting with your work/group colleagues over a coffee break or lunch fulfils a much-needed requirement for social interaction. With COVID-19, all of these were replaced by much less frequent Zoom meetups, which, though a good alternative cannot completely mimic real face-to-face conversational setups. Lots of conferences were cancelled, a ton of others were postponed and consequently held online. For an early-stage PhD student, conferences are not just an important way to get to know the work of peers and experts of the field and interact with them but to also present your own work to the community. Nonetheless, the coming year is likely to have quite a few of them in online format which would certainly compensate for the lack of networking for a lot of PhD students like me.

Is there anything you are appreciating more now?

Reading daily news about the strenuous job of healthcare workers across the world, people who had jobs that required them to travel even in such circumstances, many others who had lost their jobs and so many more who had lost their near-dear ones to this virus has made me appreciate the fact that I have a stable, well-paying job and that my family is safe as well.  

Do you have any idea or suggestion for our community/what we could do in this time?

Well next time we have to find out how to help the weakest students. We lose them more or less right way.

Maybe it could be possible to differentiate so those seminars with few students could be in real life at university and we still could keep up all Corona conditions.

Mitali Damle

Was there also a positive outcome for you during these months?,

„Certainly! Just like every dark cloud is laced by a silver lining, there have been quite some positives for me. Working from home meant I saved commute time and in general, had more time which was available for other things. With the gyms and other sporting facilities being shut, going outdoors for a daily run became a routine for me. In the process, I was able to discover quite many hidden, beautiful spots in my neighborhood (which I, otherwise, might have not had the chance to explore). I also started sketching again, started reading books more regularly and experienced a renewed interest in cooking. I guess, over the course of past few months, my mental strength has increased a bit and I now feel less terrified when I think about the uncertainty that accompanies this pandemic.“

DEZEMBER 2020

Ariane Sasso

Age: 33 | Nationality: Brazilian | Field of study / work: Digital Health and Personalized Medicine - Hasso Plattner Institute

An international researcher gives an insight into her experience in Germany during the pandemic

NOVEMBER 2020

Denish Otiene Odanga

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The beautiful transport system! You can plan with it and meet all your appointments without a struggle. And the biking culture. Back at home bicycles are getting replaced with motorcycles and I realized how that is a bad idea. l have seen senior citizens ride bikes and I think this helps in physical fitness. Oh, and Germans hardly open up!“

Denish Otiene Odanga

Age: 30 | Nationality: Kenyan | Field of study / work: Literature and Cultures

 

My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin / surroundings:

l love being in Park Sanssouci and the historical structures in Platz der Einheit. l am yet to explore Berlin. lt is the next stop.

My advice for fellow scholars:

Settle down as soon as you can and get going with your project. You have to achieve your goal and time consciousness is key. But your main goal should not make you fail to explore this new place. You have beautiful things around you, explore! Also, purpose to learn German language. Doing so will not only make your life easy but also help you understand and appreciate the German culture.

My future plans:

I plan to continue researching in my area of interest (literatures and cultures of the minority in the cosmopolites) and to help fizzle out the phobia that characterizes our interactions.

 

Denish Otiene Odanga

The most surprising thing about Germany,

„The beautiful transport system! You can plan with it and meet all your appointments without a struggle. And the biking culture. Back at home bicycles are getting replaced with motorcycles and I realized how that is a bad idea. l have seen senior citizens ride bikes and I think this helps in physical fitness. Oh, and Germans hardly open up!“


My favorite place in Potsdam/ Berlin/ surroundings:

Kuhhorn an der Havel. Like so much the rivers and lakes around Potsdam and Berlin

The most surprising thing about Germany?

The very polite manner between students and teacher. As a Dane I do like it a lot. Its relaxing and a professional attitude and relationship. Well of course you also can miss the informal relation as we have it in Denmark.

My future plans:

To follow up in Denmark on theories of identity based on with nationality and religion. To give lectures about Dr. Dirk Schuster’s studies on the connection between Christianity and antisemitism, and to do more research local in Denmark about religious communities like in Professor Hans Hafner’s work. “Glauben in Potsdam.”

My advice for fellow scholars:

Try to visit the university before you apply for your scholarship. Get some contacts before your stay. Its much easier in the short time of 6 month to get a good result out of your stay.