Research opportunities for international physicists

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When Dr Adriana Szeghalmi looks up into the night sky in a few years’ time, she may catch sight of a satellite that she actually worked on. The 38-year-old physicist is researching a method by which to apply a very thin layer to optical materials. Known as atomic layer deposition, this can significantly enhance the properties of optical elements. In lenses, for example, the amount of reflected light can be reduced. As a result, satellites can deliver higher-resolution images.

Strong network

Adriana Szeghalmi conducts basic research at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. She heads a research group funded by the Emmy Noether Programme. "The programme is one of the best for young researchers", says junior group head Szeghalmi. She was able to design the project herself and set up the research group. The programme provides funding for her own post, as well as for three doctoral students and one postdoc. "Furthermore, the programme provides an excellent platform for networking", Szeghalmi explains. At the annual meetings of the "Emmys" and during further training courses, she has met group leaders from other institutes. As a result, she found out among other things what needs to be taken into consideration when establishing a research group or selecting doctoral students. "That was very helpful."

Back in Germany

Szeghalmi was born in Romania. She had already been drawn to Germany before her time in Jena. She first came to Würzburg as an Erasmus student. After completing her degree in physics and chemistry in Romania, she returned to Bavaria to do her PhD. "The very good conditions for research, the level of technical equipment at the university and the highly qualified professors" were the reasons for her decision. After spells as a postdoc in the Canadian city of Winnipeg and at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, she began setting up her research group in Jena in 2010.

A programme that suits one’s life

Szeghalmi has now been running the group for more than seven years – though the Emmy Noether Programme actually provides funding for only five years. This is because she has since had two children, both born in Jena. In each case she initially continued working on a part-time basis once her maternity leave ended. This is how the funding period was extended. "The programme gives one this flexibility", says Szeghalmi.

Researching practical applications

She has also been working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering for the past two years, where she contributes her knowledge to applied research for industrial purposes. And indeed the coating technology has considerable potential: it is used in many applications, such as cameras and microscopes, lasers and spectrometers.

Jena is synonymous with expertise in optics

Cooperation with small, medium-sized and large Thuringia-based companies paves the way for practical applications. One reason why Jena is known worldwide for its expertise in optics is that it is home to many scientific institutions that are active in this area, such as the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology and the Helmholtz Institute Jena. "The city of Jena is very well-known for optics in the scientific community", Szeghalmi explains. This raises the profile of its researchers at international conferences. The lively exchange between researchers in the city serves as additional motivation – in other words, creating the ideal conditions for remaining in Jena a few more years.

Various options for young researchers

Young researchers can find good conditions for studying physics at many German universities. In studies like the CHE Ranking, the following universities have scored particularly well:

University of Duisburg-Essen
University of Bayreuth
Freie Universität Berlin
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
TU Dortmund University

Young physicists can also find excellent conditions at non-university research institutions in Germany, for example:

DWI Leibniz-Institut für Interaktive Materialien, Aachen
Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics, Freiburg
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology, Dresden
Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy, Berlin
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching
Research Institute for Precious Metals and Metal Chemistry, Schwäbisch Gmünd

Furthermore, there are numerous institutions offering special doctoral programmes. The following is a selection:

Bonn-Cologne Graduate School of Physics and Astronomy
Graduate School Materials Science in Mainz
Heidelberg Graduate School of Fundamental Physics
HighRR – High Resolution and High Rate Detectors in Nuclear and Particle Physics Research Training Group, Heidelberg
International Max Planck Research School on Elementary Particle Physics, Munich

Institute of Applied Physics at Friedrich Schiller University Jena

The Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Jena is known for its development of novel materials and elements. Scientists at the institute conduct both basic and application-oriented research in this area. In doing so they contribute to solutions in many fields, such as health and medicine, environment and energy, and optical measurement methods. Research topics concern for example the design and production of micro- and nano-optical elements.