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A search for young talents We’ve a lot to offer!

University of Cologne rises to international competition

How can we attract outstanding young minds back from the USA for German research? With the aim of “brain gain” in place of “brain drain”, the GAIN Conference took place on 9-11 September 2016 in Washington D.C. for the sixteenth time: The intention is to inspire German scholars, who are engaged in research work in their post-doc phase in North America, for the German science and research landscape. The conference, which is organized by the German Research Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, has become a key event in the calendar of the higher education landscape in Germany. The University of Cologne also presented its research priorities and opportunities for young researchers at the GAIN Talent Fair. In panel discussions and roundtables, Axel Freimuth, the Rector of the UoC, talked with post-docs interested in hearing about career options and the wide range of opportunities available as well as job openings at German universities. 

By Dr. Stephanie Bölts 

What’s on offer in Cologne
Excellence Awards for exceptionally excellent talents in 2016. Photo: Erim Giresunlu Photo: Erim Giresunlu

One of the University of Cologne’s greatest assets is its tremendous pool of excellent, young and talented researchers. In order to provide attractive work and career conditions for post-docs and independent early-career researchers, the University of Cologne has introduced a wide range of measures.

Individual academic excellence is the key to scientific progress. With this in mind, each year the University grants prizes for early career researchers as well as post-doc and advanced post-doc grants for outstanding research achievements in order to enable scholars to start their own independent research work as early as possible. All post-docs and independent early career researchers have access to these internal funding schemes. In addition, the Research Management Division is on hand to provide advice on and assistance with third-party funding applications. When I applied for third-party funding to carry out my research in the area of language processing, I found very competent and quick help from the Research Management Division. It was very important to have a friendly and regular contact person in this matter. I would recommend any colleague to make use of this counselling opportunity", says Dr. Diana Dimitrova, emphasizing the importance of support in the acquisition of external funding.

You never stop learning: Part-time training courses
Leadership skills are very important when becoming a Postdoc. The University of Cologne offers many training sessions for those who would like to learn more on leading a research group. Photo: Lisa Beller

The Department of Faculty and Academic Staff Development assists early career researchers in a strategic, operational and advisory capacity. The Post-doc Career Programme offers a wide range of activities through which researchers can develop additional and differentiated skills: “With our Post-doc Career Programme we help post-docs to develop further the skills they need for a successful career in research or elsewhere. What’s important is to recognize talent at an early stage and to foster strengths in a targeted way”, explains Dr. Alan Hansen, Head of the Department of Faculty and Academic Staff Development at the University of Cologne.

Dr. Erlend Moster Knudsen

The Postdoc Career Program is a great platform for meeting other fellows with similar background and ongoing challenges. Its events are always highly relevant and well organized.

Dr. Erlend Moster Knudsen, Postdoc

With the Junior Faculty Club, a university-wide communication and information platform was created for early career researchers who are on the path to a professorship. The club functions as a central lobby which represents early career researchers’ interests and is involved in strategic processes at the University.

Fosterin international careers
International scholars are being welcomed by the friendly and competent service of our Welcome Center on campus. Photo: Fabian Stütz

Mobility Grants for Young Faculty allow flexible periods abroad and international networking. Silke Jütte works in the Department of Supply Chain Management and Management Science of the Faculty of Management, Economic and Social Sciences and says: “I used my grant to set up a joint research project with the University of Sydney on the topic of renewable energies in Australia.”

The Welcome Centre is on hand to help international researchers new to the University when they arrive in Cologne. "The service of the Welcome Center helped me to immerse quickly into my new work environment at UoC", Zhong-Chao, Postdoc from China at the Institute of Theoretical Physics. 

Reconciling family and work

In order to help young researchers reconcile family and career, the University of Cologne has established a wide range of Family Support services. For example, it runs Paramecium, the University’s own children’s house, and offers a back-up service so that children are cared for in emergencies when their parents have commitments outside normal opening hours or are away from Cologne. “Being able to reconcile family and career is a major challenge. When I came back after taking parental leave, the University of Cologne made it very easy to me to pick up my career again through flexible working hours”, says Dr. Kathrin Maring, who now heads the Specialist Group for Mathematics and Natural Science Education. 

Through its broad offer, the University of Cologne is creating an attractive working environment for young scholars, in which academic excellence and independent research, the reconciliation of family and career as well as international networking are fostered.

Parents may bring their child to work and use the Children-Parents Room occasionally. Photo: Lisa Beller