bookmark_borderThree Years of #StuFoExpo at TU Dresden

Just two weeks after I started my Ph.D. at TU Dresden, I attended my first conference as a Ph.D. student. It wasn’t a specialist research conference, though.

The “Second Conference on Student Research,” held in fall 2017, was an interdisciplinary conference organized by the bologna.lab from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU). It gathered 130+ students from all over Germany and 45+ different disciplines for a two-day conference, featuring talks and posters from all different research fields.

It was both exciting and challenging to present my Master’s thesis research to such a broad audience and, vice versa, listen to so many different presentations. I was intrigued. Right after the conference, I approached one of the organizers, figuring that the conference was already a pretty well-established event, in a sense, that it was already determined which universities were going to host it next. And that there would be no reasonable chance to bring this conference to Dresden for the next couple of years.

But the main take-away I got from this conversation was the inspiration to start an event myself. Eventually, I remembered the Postgraduate Research Showcase, organized by the science faculty at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which I attended in 2016 as an exchange student. So what about organizing a “Student Research Expo” at TU Dresden? Involving all kinds of research projects, from every faculty and every student doing research being able to participate – no matter whether it’s within the scope of a term paper or a Ph.D. thesis.

After discussing with several colleagues back in Dresden, I wrote an email to the then Rector of TU Dresden, Hans-Müller Steinhagen, who happily forwarded the proposal to the then Vice-Rector Research, Gerhard Rödel, and a few weeks later, I found myself involved in a meeting on how to implement the “Student Research Expo” in practice.

After half a year of preparations, the #StuFoExpo became a reality on July 4, 2018

For the next half a year, I wrote tons of emails, filled out the paperwork to secure a lecture hall for the event, organized funding by BASF Schwarzheide and Southwall Europe, and ordered, last but not least, catering. The plan was the following: Every student would prepare a poster contribution in advance and get 90 seconds to pitch the project to the audience. Afterwards there would be a poster session to discuss research in-depth and make connections, and in the end, a jury would judge the best contributions, and in addition, there was an audience award.

Along the way, I assembled a team of fellow students and dear friends to help with preparations and the actual event. The Team Initiation & Interaction led by Christian Bruchatz and Robert Fischer organized workshops on “How to design a poster and pitch your project.” And about two months before the expo, we opened the call for proposals, and many people helped us spread the word around campus. When submission closed, we had received more than 50 contributions. That was incredible!

Opening up the #StuFoExpo 2018

Finally, on 4th of July 2018 the first “Student Research Expo” (dt. Ausstellung für studentische Forschung / #StuFoExpo) kicked-off.

With about a hundred visitors over the course of one afternoon, my team and I soon figured that organizing larger-scale events is an art in itself: Our keynote was running straight over schedule, which gave me just enough time to call up maintenance to provide our catering service with power. Only about 35 students showed up for the pitch session, while the others were caught up with lectures or coursework. Naturally, the first run of such an event was kinda exploratory.

Finally, the poster session went smoothly. But collecting all the feedback from the jury and the audience votes took us way too long, and so for the award ceremony, basically only the student researchers were left.

Nevertheless, despite all organizational obstacles, the first student research expo sparked something off. All the positive feedback and encouragement we received showed the potential for doing more about student research than just submitting theses and moving on.

Thanks to all my fellow DDoc’s (Dresden Doctoral Council) for their support in organizing the first #StuFoExpo 2018. Especially Paula Penckert (left) and Anne Geißler (right).

While for TU Dresden, the second round of excellence was coming up in late 2018 / early 2019, and everyone was busy preparing, we

a) received substantial financial support from the Studentenstiftung Dresden (many, many thanks to Jens Bemme!), which helped us to employ a student assistant, Paul Petzold, for organizing the 2nd #StuFoExpo

b) and we even contributed to the TU Dresden application in the Excellence Universities Funding Line! With the help of Jörg Schmidt and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching (ZiLL), we applied for FOSTER – Funds fOr STudEnt Research – and therefore, I am particularly proud and happy that TU Dresden made it into yet another round of Excellence funding.

Despite having moved to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology within my Ph.D., I continued to organize the Second Student Research Expo together with our student assistant Paul Petzold. It took place in November 2019 in the ballroom of TU Dresden: thoroughly planned, a lot more organized, slightly smaller scale, but all in all, an amazing event. And with the actual poster exhibition being on display all around campus for several weeks. The financial support of the Studenten Stiftung Dresden had greatly helped us bridge the time until the FOSTER funds became available at the end of 2019.

Fast forward, even in the face of Corona, the Third Student Research Expo took place last week on September 1, 2020, as an online event: featuring the marvelous keynote talk by Ronny Timmreck on his work with leXolar and Senorics, and 20 student pitches, that were pre-recorded as a video and which you’ll also find here.

I am super happy watching this event evolve within the last couple of years, and I am excited for the student research initiative to unfold its full potential at TU Dresden and beyond – by connecting students, researchers, and industry and inspiring students to pursue research from an early stage on, maybe even before their Bachelor’s thesis.

If you have any ideas for the next expo, if you want to exchange experiences or if you would like to support us, feel free to drop us an email:

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bookmark_borderResearch Data Goes Cloud

Every time you undertake research, you create new knowledge about our world and, thus, new data. The challenge is now: How to store and manage all of this data for later reuse?

NFDI is an initiative within Germany, put forward by the Joint Science Conference in late 2018 and backed financially by the federal and state governments, to establish a distributed cloud infrastructure to address this issue. The acronym NFDI hereby stands for the lovely German term “ Nationale ForschungsDatenInfrastruktur,” i.e. national research data infrastructure. The directorate of NFDI is based in Karlsruhe, while the data management is taken care of by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure (FIZ).

This data management is based on the so-called FAIR principles: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. It means that research and metadata need to be findable, both by humans and bots, accessible in a standardized way, integrate well with other data, and reusable following the respective licenses. And this last point being ‘reusable’ is crucial since this is the ultimate goal of FAIR: to make data more reusable and thus the science more efficient.

Research Data Management: Now and in Future

Currently, NFDI is in the process of forming consortia and reviewing funding proposals, with a total amount of €85 million provisioned for the establishment of up to 30 consortia across all sciences. The long-term goal is to build an independent legal entity dedicated to research data management in Germany in conjunction with other initiatives such as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

Since NFDI is a very recent initiative, probably not many researchers nor students have heard of it so far. Within the Youth German Physical Society, I am heading a team dedicated to spreading the word about NFDI and contributing the youth perspective on research data management. On the one hand, this means envisioning how such a research data infrastructure could work in the future, as we will use it in five to ten years.

Just pretend you are reading a scientific publication. Currently, it’s like you are scrolling through a PDF, and if you would like to reuse some data points, you would extract them from a crappy, low-resolution screenshot or plead to the authoring researchers and hope they are going to send over some data. Now imagine this article were web-first, linked with all the research data and featuring interactive graphics like in IPython. Where you put your cursor into the graphics and read off the data point, display the publishing license, and right-click to export the data for reuse in your own simulation, in accordance with the publishing license. And you were introduced to this data management system within your studies.

On the other hand, our goal is to discuss how NFDI can be integrated into teaching, in labs courses, and during thesis writing, acquaint students with using such a cloud-based research database. This includes, for example, providing sample data as open educational resources. An entire concept is presented by a position paper of the Federal Council of Physics Students in Germany.

Event: Satellite Workshop ‘NFDI @ Teaching’

On June 3, 2020, our team from the Youth German Physical Society, together with the Federal Council of Physics Students in Germany, is organizing a satellite workshop ‘NFDI @ Teaching’ to the Conference on a FAIR Data Infrastructure for Materials Genomics, which is going to take place from 9 am till 1 pm as a Zoom seminar. On this occasion, we would like to discuss designing a research data infrastructure with respect to the needs of young, aspiring researchers and how NFDI could look like in practice at university.

Also, in November 2019, we have been doing a design thinking process within the Youth German Physical Society, design thinking about who will use NFDI (by creating personas) and how these people are going to use it (by writing user stories). The results of this process will be presented as a poster contribution to our satellite workshop.

Looking forward to seeing you on June 3, 2020!

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