Research opportunities for international environmental scientists

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Researching in Germany and using his scientific findings to help other countries is something that Rohini Kumar is passionate about. A hydrologist from India, he originally came to spend just a short period of time in Germany, but has now been living here for twelve years.

A postdoc at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Kumar works on mathematical models that can predict flooding and severe drought. It is the global applicability of the systems he develops that motivates him. "Every country in the world can benefit from our applications. I find it fulfilling that I am able to use my knowledge for regions in which the necessary resources are not available", says Kumar.

International connections

Rohini Kumar analyses climate data

Kumar is excited not only by the worldwide application of the technologies which he and his colleagues research, but also by the international connections. "During my time in Germany, I have been able to hone my skills as a scientist and to forge links with colleagues from the USA, Australia and Europe, as well as from my home country, India."

In his current work at the Smart Models and Monitoring department, Kumar attempts to take data from regions where a lot of climate information is collected and apply it to regions about which little is known as yet. Rather than being limited to just a few days, his forecasts of drought periods or flooding cover periods of several months or even years.

On a DAAD scholarship to Germany

It was twelve years ago that he heard for the first time about the opportunity to research in Germany. At the time he was studying Water Resource Development and Management at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, close to the Indian city of Calcutta. The university offered ten students the chance to take part in a twinning programme with Technische Universität Dresden. Kumar signed up for the India IIT Master Sandwich Programme and, thanks to a DAAD scholarship, was able to spend nine months studying in Dresden. He also wrote his master’s thesis there.

While still in Dresden, he decided that he wanted to stay in Germany even after graduation. He discovered the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in nearby Leipzig. Four years later he completed his PhD there – in cooperation with Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

"A little more sunshine"

The hydrologist Rohini Kumar (left) with his colleagues

Germany has become Kumar’s second home. The 34-year-old is now married to a German and has a child. "I really like living in Germany, though it was somewhat difficult at first to adapt from an Indian lifestyle to a German one. Everything is more organised in Germany than in India", remarks Kumar. Friends and colleagues helped him adapt to life in Germany – something he is very grateful for. The only thing he still misses is good weather. "If I could wish for one thing, it would be a little more sunshine in Germany."

Kumar does not yet know exactly what lies ahead of him professionally. The only thing that he is clear about is that he wants to stay in Germany. "I’d like to apply for a tenure track programme, as a permanent contract would be ideal."

Various options for young researchers

Young researchers can find good conditions for studying geoscience, of which hydrology is a sub-discipline, at many German universities. In studies like the CHE Ranking, the following universities score particularly well:

Young researchers can also find ideal conditions at non-university research institutions. Examples include the following:

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ

More than 1,000 scientists conduct interdisciplinary work in three key areas at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ: Earth and Environment, Health, and Energy. Its research projects always focus on the question of how social progress can be made compatible with a sustainable environmental approach. More than 300 doctoral students from 40 countries pursue research at the UFZ.

www.ufz.de