How does hydrogen affect the mechanical behavior of metals and alloys?

It has long been understood that hydrogen has a negative effect on metals like iron and steel. María Jazmin Duarte Correa explains how new technologies can help to pin down the impact of hydrogen in this context.

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Why did you choose Germany as a research destination?

I have wanted to come to Germany since I started my PhD as I knew that research and development of new technologies has been a priority in Germany for many decades. In addition, I was interested in finding a place that puts special interest in sustainability projects, and at the MPIE (Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung) I found a very welcoming environment where to develop my ideas. At my arrival I did not expect to stay in Germany for longer than two years. However, I am glad to have had the opportunity to stay up to now to contribute my part in the field.

What was your first impression of Germany, the German culture and its people?

My first impression of Germany was definitely far away from what I had expected, but as well far away from the everyday life in Germany. I came to Düsseldorf during the first day of Carnival. The city was full of colours, music and people dancing, singing and drinking. I must recognize that it was kind of relaxing to see everyone having a good time in the cold winter, contrary to the stereotypical serious and rigorous behaviour. Afterwards I slowly learned from my experience in Düsseldorf how rich the German culture is and how diverse its people. People are still rigorous and organised at work, which fits very well to what I was expecting, and I very much like working here, but they also put emphasis on the work-life balance, and this is something very positive for me as well.

Did you encounter any difficulties while settling in in Germany?

As an expat it can be challenging to find your way in Germany, especially when coming from a different culture, such as a Latin American culture. My first difficulty was the language; even though English is enough to do research, at least a basic level of German is necessary for the everyday life out of work. My second challenge was and partly still is the interaction with colleagues and friends outside of work. It took me a while to establish my group of friends, but once established, my life in Germany has been enjoyable and almost full. I still enormously miss my family and my culture, which means I get homesick from time to time, but now I have support from a great group of friends and my two loves in Germany, my husband and my son.

Do you have tips for other international researchers who are thinking about coming to Germany or cooperating with researchers in Germany?

My first tip is to lose the fear to come to Germany and explore a different culture, different way of living and of course of working. Coming from a country like mine, Mexico, from Latin America, or other non-European countries might seem uncertain or even scary in some cases. However, at least in my case, Germany and in particular Düsseldorf and the colleagues with whom I had the opportunity to work, were much more welcoming than I had imagined. Second, even if you do not need the German language to do research, try learning some German, the place can change completely by just understanding it. Research is great in Germany and it is possible to find cooperation partners in different fields, look for the right calls; however making the first contact might be challenging sometimes. Networking is very important, contacting researchers and research centres directly can be useful, but if possible, meeting at conferences or other events could be even more fruitful to discuss possible projects and cooperation.

Short and crisp: What is your favourite

  • German word: Schreiner
  • German dish: Käsespätzle
  • piece of German culture: focus on health, education and a more sustainable living


Find out more about María Jazmin Duarte Correa and her research project on the Latest Thinking website: