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When Eleni Georganta talks about Munich she beams with delight. The southern German city has become like a second home for her. “Munich is so alive, with a great range of cultural activities and so many beautiful parks, gardens, cafés and bars”, the young researcher enthuses. Eleni from Greece came up with the plan of studying in Munich while still at school. “My parents showed me the city during a holiday and I loved it immediately”, she remembers.
Hard work pays off
Eleni did not need to worry about the language, as she attended the German School in Athens and speaks accentless German. It all began in 2009 when she moved to Munich and embarked upon a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität(LMU). When she initially had to leave Munich to take a master’s in business psychology, she did so with a heavy heart. “Unfortunately my marks were not good enough to enable me to stay in Munich, so I went to the UK for a year.” However, she was so keen to return to Munich that she submitted a concrete research proposal for her PhD to her former tutor at the LMU. He found her proposed topic very interesting and appropriate to the research conducted at his department – and Eleni was able to move back to Munich. She is now doing her PhD in business psychology at the LMU. She works in her department as a research associate, and also coordinates the master’s programme. Talking about this makes her laugh out loud at first. “It really is the irony of fate: I now coordinate the exact same master’s programme for which I myself failed to qualify.”
She spends most of her time on her research, however. Her PhD topic is the “Team Adaptation Process”. It is all about how a team reacts in practice to a change that results in unforeseen challenges. Eleni gives an example: “Roles and tasks are clearly assigned in a well-functioning team. Imagine that your team is supposed to be giving an important presentation next week, but suddenly a member of the team falls ill. The team now lacks this person’s particular competencies and has to adapt quickly if it is to achieve a good outcome nonetheless. I explore how exactly this adaptation process takes place and which factors lead to a successful result.”
How closely related are theory and practice?
Eleni, who is now 25, came up with the topic while still pursuing her master’s degree. “Many academic sources claim that adaptation is one of the most important factors for successful teamwork. And yet I was able to find very little information about this.” She explains that there has been particularly little research done into how suitable theoretical adaptation models are in practice. For her PhD, Eleni studies real-life teams to ascertain how this adaptation process works in practice. One of her key findings is that the existing theories can generally be applied well in practice, with a few limitations. According to the latest theory, for example, teams pass through four adaptation phases: gathering of information, preparation of a plan, implementation of the plan and learning from the situation. “I discovered that these phases overlap in some cases in practice, and that teams often pass through the entire process more than once. Overall, this has a positive impact on the team, because it increases mutual understanding between the team members.” Her findings could help to train staff how to cope with challenges – which would make companies more successful.
Research abroad funded by German university
Eleni completed part of her research at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “That is where I developed the first theories for my research topic. My Munich supervisor and my department supported me in my desire to spend six months in the United States. It was a great experience.” She returned from the US in March and is now busy putting the finishing touches to her work. “My department gave me the opportunity to take part in conferences and workshops, which prepared me for my dissertation. Overall, doing a PhD in Germany is a challenge that requires a lot of discipline and hard work”, explains Eleni.
Various options for young researchers
Young researchers can also find good conditions for studying psychology at many other German universities. In studies like the CHE Ranking, the following universities for example score particularly well:
- Heidelberg University
- Technische Universität Dresden
- University of Bamberg
- University of Greifswald
- University of Mannheim
Psychologists also have many opportunities at a number of non-university research institutions, including the following:
- Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information
- Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
- Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry
Eleni is not sure yet whether she wants to go into research or business once she has finished her PhD. But one thing she does seem fairly certain about is that she would like to remain in Munich.
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München is one of the leading universities in Europe. It offers the entire spectrum of academic disciplines: from the humanities and cultural sciences to law, economics and social sciences, as well as medicine and the natural sciences. More than 700 professors and nearly 3,900 academic staff members currently conduct research and teach in 18 faculties.www.uni-muenchen.de