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Successful funding programme for young women scientists

There are not enough female professors. What can be done about the fact that so many leave the universities after their doctorates? Do scholarships help to keep more women in science? In 2018, five young ladies were awarded scholarships under the programme for promoting young female scientists at Technische Universität Ilmenau. The funding was provided by the Thuringian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society (TMWWDG) and TU Ilmenau.

In 2018, five young ladies were awarded scholarships under the programme for promoting young female scientists at Technische Universität Ilmenau. The funding was provided by the Thuringian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society (TMWWDG) and TU Ilmenau.

The funding concept drawn up within the framework of gender equality was intended to encourage excellent young women to choose a career in research after the completion of their doctorates. The call for proposals made it possible either to prepare for a junior professorship, to take up a habilitation or to complete a habilitation project that had already begun. In addition to the scholarship and travel funds for the establishment of a network within the scientific community, the funding also includes support for the development of as an independent research personality. The young ladies are given the freedom to sharpen their individual profile in a self-defined topic and to make themselves known. This included the joint and public colloquium of postdoctoral candidates on 3 December 2018.

The five young ladies presented their strategic planning and the progress of their projects inter-departmentally. The colloquium afternoon offered plenty of time for in-depth discussion of the exciting current basic results. The variety of topics and their possible areas of application were impressive:

  • Faster calculation methods for eddy current testing that can be used in medical technology and materials testing
  • Biomimetic microphones based on intelligent resonators, which sharpen their sensitivity as in  natural hearing  with certain frequencies
  • Investigations on lattice distortion and segregation in high entropy alloys, i.e. multilayer thin films that form new alloys after stimulation  causing  the release of energy
  •  Nano- and microparticle composites, which are produced by microfluidic means and open up new ways of catalysis due to their multi-layered structure and enormous surface area
  • Interfacial investigations in segregating glass-ceramic systems, which also offer catalysis or filter applications through pores in the nm range.

Functional materials, intelligent sensors and data-intensive engineering are the three profile lines of the TU Ilmenau addressed by these topics demonstrating how the ideas of postdocs inspire research.

The number of outstanding publications in technical journals, conference contributions and applications that were accomplished within this short period was also impressive. 

What could the scholarship recipients achieve during their award period? How did the scholarship  help the recipients? One of the ladies from the first funding round is about to complete her habilitation, one was able to change to a permanent position at the TU after three months, and three can continue their research at habilitation or project positions after the fellowship.

This phase shortly after the doctorate is both exciting and challenging: you have reached a scientific climax, you are an expert in your field. Those who then want to develop themselves and the topic further with specialist knowledge, enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge face the dilemma of an uncertain employment situation in temporary positions at the university and seemingly more secure, better paid positions in industry. Even better, of course, would be to adequately equip intermediary staff with jobs for such personalities.

The scholarship programme can make it easier for young ladies to decide for research and offer them a time of freedom for their own development.

In this respect, the programme for the promotion of young female scientists can be regarded as a complete success: the five young female researchers, together with the networks of research partners that they were able to set up during the year, are flagship figures for good research at the TU Ilmenau. The initial questions can clearly be answered in the affirmative: the programme helps women on their way to a professorship and the university retains more of the best minds.

That is a good reason to continue the program. The Ministry has extended the financing of the programme up to and including 2020. The second call for young female scientists (https://www.tu-ilmenau.de/stipendien/tu-ilmenau-stipendium/) was launched in January 2019. All those who have become curious and enthusiastic about research are advised to inquire about the exact conditions with the Equal Opportunities Officer or with one of the successful scholarship recipients.