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Academia or Industry? Getting ready for the EU job market. On Marie-Curie-Project ITaRS

They are the new generation of scientists. They come from Italy, Spain, China, Greece, Pakistan, and the US, just to mention some of their origins. When 16 young and thriving individuals from all over the world work jointly on one academic project across several European academic institutions, it is very likely to become a success story. Find out more about the “new wave of researchers” and what their project is all about.

ITaRS stands for Initial Training for atmospheric Remote Sensing and is a network bringing together a group of universities, research organisations and high-tech companies from different disciplines (Meteorology, Geosciences, Physics, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics) with the aim to further develop the area of atmospheric remote sensing. 

The EU funds the ITaRS network

Photo: Tobias Arhelger,

The group has received funding as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Initial Training Network from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. Over the last three years, ITaRS has given its best to train 16 young researchers from all over the world. Each of the ITaRS-fellows is employed by one of the 9 European ITaRS-partners. It is a special virtue of Marie Curie projects to prepare for both a career in academia and in industry. 

The new generation of scientists

Hermann Russchenberg from ITaRS partner TU Delft, Photo: TU Delft

The ITaRS network offers its fellows a mixture of summer schools, joint campaigns, secondments to academia and industry, and complementary training courses. Together, they form a new generation of scientists, who are able to close the gap between the specialized development of single instruments and atmospheric applications. Herman Russchenberg from ITaRS Partner TU Delft, says:

'ITaRS offers opportunities to doctoral students to prepare them for the international arena. The border-crossing collaboration between the fellows is a vital element of ITaRS. Not only does it lead to enhanced quality of the work itself, but it also equips the fellows with improved soft skills: cross-cultural communication, understanding and networking. In our complex, modern world these qualities are a prerequisite for success.'

Secondments on the CV

Fellow Claudia Aquistapace with pupils during her project, photo: private

Practical experience is something a lot of young scientists are lacking today. ITaRS offeres this unique opportunity for all of its fellows during the course of their individual PhDs. Claudia Acquistapace is from Italy and is currently fellow at the University of Cologne:

“The secondments had a big influence, both on the scientific and on the human side. The two secondments I had were completely different from one another: at the company Metek I learned what it’s like to work in industry. It helped to better understand our data.

At McGill University in Montreal I interacted with many different people coming from all over the world and I improved my programming skills. McGill is a hub for radar systems and I am lucky I was able to widen my expertise on that topic during my secondment there.

On top of that, going to Montreal helped me to be more independent and showed me how a different research group works. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Susanne Crewell is the coordinator of ITaRS and Professor of Meteorology at the University of Cologne, photo: Claudia Acquistapace

Susanne Crewell  (Photo) is a Professor of Meteorology at the University of Cologne and is the coordinator of ITaRS. For her, the combination of academia and industry is critical for the success of today’s demands, be it in industry or science: 

“Right from the start ITaRS fellows not only meet leading scientists in their field, but also industrial partners to build their networks. Secondments in academia and industry offer them the opportunity to gain insight into choosing a career path after receiving their PhD.”

Cologne is home

XinXin Busch Li at the Baltic Sea. She likes to travel across Germany together with her husband. Photo: Xinxin Busch Li

The international fellows based at the University of Cologne feel very much at home in the City of Cologne. Xinxin Busch Li from China mentions the easy transport system in the region that connects her home in Mülheim an der Ruhr to her work place at the University. “Cologne also has a diverse culture and is a dynamic city with lots of young people coming from manifold countries. The international atmosphere makes the local people in Cologne particularly friendly and tolerant towards different ideas and cultures. In a nutshell, Cologne has a lot of positive energy.”

ITaRS fellows at work during a summer school 2014, photo: Edouard Martins

After three years of training, the network was presented at the Meteorological Technology World Expo 2015 on October 13-15th in Brussels. Now all highly skilled young academics will enter academia or the industry individually, and ITaRS has laid the groundwork for all of them to be the excellent young academics with practical experience that employers are searching for: skilled, experienced and international.

And what's in for the future?

Umar Saeed, fellow in the ITaRS project in front of the Cologne Cathedral with his son. Photo: private

Umar Saeed, fellow at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, BarcelonaTech (UPC) says on his life after ITaRS:

“Being an ITaRS fellow, having collaborated with the well-known research group at the University of Cologne and due to good research results during the PhD project, I am confident that I will be able to find a good opportunity in Europe.”