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Since 2012, the Beilstein-Institut has been running a scholarship program for young scientists to carry out their doctoral studies in basic research in chemistry and related disciplines. The aim of the program is to support the participants at the start of their scientific career. It addresses those students who want to devote their doctoral studies to interdisciplinary research projects in biochemistry, chemistry and physics. Apart from the financial support, the Beilstein-Institut seeks to help the scholars further by promoting exchanges with established scientists, the formation of networks and the development of the “scientific personality.”

 

Beilstein scholarships are awarded for a period of up to three years with an interim evaluation after 18 months. The maximum age for acceptance into the program is 25 years; the financial support is 1,650 euros per month.

Scholarship meeting 2016

In the Speciality Shop
Merck in Darmstadt

On June 20, 2016, ten scholarship holders of the Beilstein-Institut went to Darmstadt to participate in a special factory tour at Merck – which is the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world. During a presentation of the company and its products, Gudrun Preßler-Rickert from the Visitor Service team emphasized that tradition and constant innovation have been characteristics of the company since its foundation in 1668. Almost 9,000 of the 50,000 company's employees worldwide are based in Darmstadt, the headquarters of Merck. The factory tour led past impressive buildings from various historical eras and numerous construction sites, demonstrating that the company is constantly developing and changing.

Gudrun Preßler-Rickert started with a brief overview of the history of the Merck family, from the acquisition of the Engel-Apotheke (Angel Pharmacy) in 1668, to Emanuel Merck who established the research-based industrial company in 1827 up to today's market position. She emphasized that the Merck family – who is still the majority shareholder of the listed company – is committed to a long-term business success. The difference to the American company Merck & Co. was also discussed. The company's broad portfolio ranging from Healthcare to Life Science and Performance Materials encouraged interesting questions and discussions among the Beilstein scholars, who perform their doctoral thesis in various scientific disciplines.

Sebastian Barth, employee of the Strategic Marketing department in the Performance Materials, talked about Organic Photovoltaics, a promising technology that uses organic materials to produce climate-friendly electricity from sunlight. Comparable to the concept of inkjet printers, the organic materials are printed on suitable substrates allowing highly flexible application possibilities. First applications, e.g. in smartphones, already exist. However, the long-term goal to use Organic Photovoltaics by equipping roofs and facades is not yet within reach. Especially those Beilstein scholars who are working in this field were very interested and asked a lot of questions. The stakeholder aspect, the handling of EU directives and the need of lobbying were further interesting aspects of Barths talk shedding a new light on the implementation of research results.

Organic light emitting diodes, or OLED – Organic Light Emitting Diode, were the subject of the next speaker, Dr. Claus-Peter Niesert. As head of process development, he is responsible for process trials in the laboratories and for scaling up the production process via plant trials. During a tour in the lab, the participants were able to gain an insight into the research work performed at Merck. Niesert limited his speech not only to scientific and technical aspects; he also answered questions on job and career opportunities at Merck. The talks and discussions were so lively and interesting that the group nearly missed the lunch break. Just in time before closing the canteen was reached. Over lunch, the participants had the opportunity to ask further questions to the speakers. The excited conversations – the speakers were also very interested in the research areas of the young scientists – could have lasted for hours. However, the group had to move on to visit the innovation center of the company.

The innovation center provides the infrastructure for intensive brainstorming and is meant as a think tank for the development of new ideas. Hong-Wa Poon welcomed the group and explained the concept of the innovation center. He led the participants through the building which has existed since spring 2015 and will be replaced by the new innovation center next year. The innovation center is divided into two parts: an open area that is open for employees and visitors at any time and an office area that is used by the project teams. The aim of the center is to encourage innovation, generate ideas and create space for new forms of co-operations apart from the routine of everyday business. On their way from the first idea to a business model, start-up companies are supported and offered the opportunity to use the office facilities in the innovation center for a certain period of time. According to Hong-Wa Poo, applications can be submitted by everyone who has an innovative idea.

Dr. Carsten Kettner and Christina Keil, who are responsible for the scholarship program of the Beilstein-Institut, thanked Gudrun Preßler-Rickert for the exciting program she had arranged for the group. After an eventful day in Darmstadt and with a lot of new impressions in their luggage, the scholarship holders started their journey home.

Farewell symposium

The three-year funding period has been completed successfully: With a smile in one eye and a tear in the other, the first generation of Beilstein scholars said goodbye at the end of June 2015. During the final colloquium in the Beilstein-Institut, they presented the results of their PhD projects. Each presentation was followed by a short discussion during which the young scientists had no difficulty in answering all detailed questions.

The colloquium was enriched by two presentations highlighting two different aspects of the history of science. Professor Christoph Meinel of the University of Regensburg gave a talk on "Physical chemistry before 'the' physical chemistry" and Dr. Thomas Steinhauser from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin spoke about "Science and technology in modern chemistry with the example of solid state research".

Twelve of the total 15 Beilstein scholars of the first generation, their supervisors and employees of the Beilstein-Institut participated in the event. Besides the professional exchange, at lunch there was the possibility to talk about the scholar's plans for the future. The foundation will be following the career of the scholars with great interest and looks forward to future meetings.

Mid-term evaluation:
the hurdle is taken

 

On 12 May 2015, the interim evaluation of the second generation of Beilstein scholars took place in the Beilstein-Institut. At the end of April, the eight scholarship holders had already submitted their interim reports for their PhD projects. During the mid-term evaluation symposium, the young investigators presented their research results of the first 18 months. Each of the 15-minute presentations was followed by a question and answer session and a short discussion. In a relaxed atmosphere, there was a lively exchange among the scholars and with the attending staff of the Beilstein-Institut.

As the evaluation of all projects was positive, board member Dr. Martin G. Hicks handed out the written funding commitment for the next 18 months. At lunch, any last tension and nervousness were shaken off and the day ended with professional exchanges on thoughts and experiences.

Excursion to Darmstadt

Excursion to the heavy ion Accelerator

On July 16, 2014, the Beilstein scholarship holders went to the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH (Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt. Dr. Ingo Peter, Head of the Public Relations Department at GSI, guided the group and gave an insight into the research that is done in Darmstadt. He presented the institution and introduced past and current research activities at GSI.

Their unique large-scale accelerator for heavy ions is used in international cooperation to study the structure of matter and to better understand the evolution of the universe. One of the best-known research results gained at GSI is the discovery of six new chemical elements. In addition to basic research, new technical or medical applications are developed in Darmstadt.

The scholarship holders were impressed by the dimensions of the effort that are necessary for this research.

In huge halls, numerous measurement laboratories need to be protected from radiation with concrete blocks and are equipped with extensive measurement and control technology. The laboratory used to develop a new tumor therapy with ion beams was a very interesting stop, as this was the place where patients with tumors in the head were successfully treated between 1997 and 2009. Since 2009, this method is used in clinical routine operation at the University Hospital in Heidelberg. Moreover, the group was fascinated by the size of the construction site of FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which is one of the largest research projects worldwide.

In a nearby restaurant in Egelsbach the Beilstein scholarship holders of the years 2012 and 2013 used their first joint meeting to get to know each other, intensify their contacts and exchange experiences and ideas.

Beilstein scholarship program goes into the next round

The second round of the scholarship program started in the summer of 2013 with 26 students applying. More than half of them satisfied the formal eligibility criteria. After receiving positive assessments of their research projects, eight doctoral students were accepted into the program in December 2013.

Like the first generation of Beilstein scholars, they will also benefit in many ways, since scholarships are a special form of funding: a relatively small impulse can achieve a major medium term impact.

Meeting of scholars, may 2013

In addition to the scientific aspects of the scholarship, the communicative skills of the participants are also addressed. For example, in May 2013, the topic “Scientific publication – how and where do I publish?” was discussed at a scholarship meeting which was also attended by scholarship holders from the NanoBiC project as well as staff of the Beilstein-Institut.

Through their work in the editorial office of the Beilstein Journals, the staff members are experts in the field of scientific publications, and were able to report first-hand on important aspects of scientific publishing. They also gave the doctoral students an insight into the work of an editorial office, and thus some helpful tips, such as the correct way to cite literature and to avoid plagiarism.

Premiere in 2012

The application phase for the first edition of the scholarship program ended in March 2012. By then, 25 applicants had signed up – a respectable number underlining the scientific community’s high level of interest in the new program. The proposed research projects were evaluated by external experts. Those students who received positive feedback were invited to present their projects during a symposium at the Beilstein-Institut.

After this second hurdle had been overcome, 15 candidates were accepted into the scholarship program. Amongst the projects were the development of low-cost dye-sensitized solar cells, the neutralization of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by sunlight, the production of semiconductor wires of only a few nanometers thickness and the study of pharmaceutically active substances.