Our Researchers of the Month

APRIL 2022

Rekikua on a bridge

The most surprising thing about Germany?,

„The varieties of bread, waste management system, especially the recycling separation, and the fact that cash is a king are a few things I can mention.“

Rekikua Sahilu Alemayehu

Age: 28 | Nationality: Ethiopian

Field of study / work: Condensed matter physics

Your favorite spots in Potsdam/ Berlin/ surroundings?

I have been to a few places so far, and Sanssouci park is my favorite spot in Potsdam.

Tell us shortly in 3 sentences about your research: What are you working on and how did you get interested in your field?

My research focuses on determining the ultimate polarization switching time of ferroelectric thin films and nanostructures that are integrated on silicon. My interest emanates from the desire to contribute to the development of new, innovative, and advanced materials and methods to tackle modern challenges.

Is there anything special you miss from back home?

Yes, I miss my families and friends.

How do you keep a good work-life balance? Any advice for your fellow scholars?

In my opinion, no prescription will fit everyone as we are different. And it’s up to us to play with what timescale feels relevant to us. Setting blocks of time for various tasks helped me a lot to do my work during the golden hours. In addition, I always try to maintain good physical health as it is a quest to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

 

Rekikua on a bridge

The most surprising thing about Germany?,

„The varieties of bread, waste management system, especially the recycling separation, and the fact that cash is a king are a few things I can mention.“

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022

Pooneh Roghanian

How do you keep a good work-life balance? Any advice for your fellow scholars?,

„I make a to-do list and prioritize my responsibilities. I make every effort to stick to my schedule. But there are times when I am unable to complete the task, which I believe is entirely natural, and you must accept these planning flaws. When one or two tasks in a program are not completed, some people abandon it entirely. In my to-do list, I always attempt to include my favorite daily routine, as well as things that give me energy or are vital to me and my health.“

Pooneh Roghanian

Age: 29 | Nationality: Iranian

Field of study / work: Biochemistry

Your favorite spots in Potsdam/ Berlin/ surroundings?

I honestly can't decide just one spot. There is several sightseeing. One of my favorite places is the Sanssouci Park. Is there anyone who is not fond of the Sanssouci Park? This location is breathtaking, inspiring, and stunning. I go there whenever I feel lack of energy, stress or upset, and I feel so much better afterwards.

The most surprising thing about Germany?

There are numerous things that amaze me. The well-organized waste separation system is the first point to mention. That might be really beneficial to the environment. One of the best transportation systems in the world. Although there may be some delays in the transportation schedule, you are free to go whenever and wherever you wish.

Tell us shortly in 3 sentences about your research: What are you working on and how did you get interested in your field?

We are working on primary metabolism of plants, especially starch metabolism. Starch synthesis and degradation includes several enzymes (more than 30) and different glycans, sugars, and sugar derivatives.

Where do/ would you go with visiting friends or family?

I don't have much time to go outside, to be honest. However, we do get together in restaurants and bars from time to time. We don't have a favorite spot; instead, we'd like to try somewhere new.

Is there anything special you miss from back home?

Yes, I absolutely miss my family and friends at all times. In addition, the Iranian New Year is approaching, and this time of year in my own country is quite wonderful.

The winter is still not over yet... what do you do when it is dark and fresh outside? Any advice on how to get through the cold season?

It was challenging for me because everything was new to me and in my country, we have more sunlight and longer days. However, in order to be more successful and have more energy during the day, I began to exercise regularly, eat a good diet, and get adequate sleep. I also recommend that you use your lengthy nights to pursue a subject that you are interested in, such as music, painting, or anything, more professional.

Your future plans:

My long-term goals include progressing with my project so that I can continue to learn, take on more responsibility, and bring as much value to our department as possible. Also,during my PhD, I would like to learn to paint.

 

Pooneh Roghanian

How do you keep a good work-life balance? Any advice for your fellow scholars?,

„I make a to-do list and prioritize my responsibilities. I make every effort to stick to my schedule. But there are times when I am unable to complete the task, which I believe is entirely natural, and you must accept these planning flaws. When one or two tasks in a program are not completed, some people abandon it entirely. In my to-do list, I always attempt to include my favorite daily routine, as well as things that give me energy or are vital to me and my health.“

DECEMBER 2021

Fleur Vissers

What are your personal favourite spots in Potsdam or Berlin?,

„I have only been in Potsdam for two weeks now and have not seen everything yet. So far, I really liked Park Babelsberg as it was just beautiful with all the different colours of autumn, with a nice castle and a blue sky as you can also see in my picture. I am excited about exploring the city a bit more and maybe even finding other personal favourite spots around Potsdam.“

Fleur Vissers

Age: 26 | Nationality: Dutch | Duration of Stay: 9 months

Field of study / work: Linguistics and Developmental Psychology

 

What is the best food from your home country?

I am not a big fan of the typical Dutch food to be honest. I think the Dutch cuisine is not really exciting or special. One thing that I can say always tastes better in the Netherlands than anywhere else is the peanut butter.

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

I am going to university by bike which is a 13 km ride. On my way I cycle at Lindenallee which is for me the most calming part of the bike route. I think this has been so far the nicest place to cycle with some nice nature and not too many people.

Fall and Winter are approaching. What do you do when it gets dark and cold outside?

When it gets dark and cold outside I always try to create a cosy atmosphere by putting up some Christmas lights, walking around the house with a blanket and maybe drink some hot chocolate every once in a while.

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

At the moment I am working on infants’ tone discrimination and the relation to infants’ face discrimination. Young infants can discriminate between two different native speech sounds and also between two different non-native speech sounds but when they grow older they attune to their environment. This means that the infants are most sensitive to differences in their native speech sounds. This same pattern is found in face discrimination between same-race and other-race faces. We are researching the relations between these two developmental patterns and whether these patterns can be reversed. 

Your advice for fellow scholars:

My advice for other scholars would be to keep on trying. Keep trying to find out what interests you most, as by trying different working environments and by working on different topics you can really find out what interests you most. Most importantly, keep trying even if people tell you something is not possible. If you really want something you will get there one way or another if you keep on trying hard enough.

Your future plans:

My future plan is to continue to work on research into children’s language development and hopefully start a PhD at some point. Besides that, I would also like to share my interest in and excitement about research with students in seminars and lectures.

 

Fleur Vissers

What are your personal favourite spots in Potsdam or Berlin?,

„I have only been in Potsdam for two weeks now and have not seen everything yet. So far, I really liked Park Babelsberg as it was just beautiful with all the different colours of autumn, with a nice castle and a blue sky as you can also see in my picture. I am excited about exploring the city a bit more and maybe even finding other personal favourite spots around Potsdam.“

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.“

OCTOBER 2021

Judy J. 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 J. 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.“

JULY 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.“