What was your main project during the engineering

Susanne

Susanne is a professor at the Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences. She completed her studies in environmental engineering in London and does yoga in her free time.

What and at which university did you study?

"Environmental Engineering" at Brunel University in London (GB)

What made you decide to do this degree? Have you taken a different direction first?

I actually wanted to study psychology because I wanted to do something meaningful. A good friend then suggested environmental engineering to me because she thought it suits me. When researching possible courses of study in both psychology and environmental technology, I noticed that the latter appeals to me much more. That's how I got into environmental engineering.

Did you already have practical experience before or during your studies in the form of part-time jobs, summer jobs, participation in Girls' Day, internships, student jobs?

The entire third year of my studies was a practical phase in industry, before that I had no practical experience in a technical area (except for mending bicycles ...).

Have you been involved in any particular networks or university programs that you supported?

After my studies, I joined the German Association of Women Engineers (www.dibev.de). Through this network I got to know many women with exciting résumés, who then encouraged me to do a doctorate and apply as a professor. As a doctoral student, I was also in a mentoring program, which was very supportive - especially when I got pregnant for the third time, unplanned.

Have you completed a degree abroad? What is your experience?

I went to London right after graduating from high school, where I worked for almost 5 years before I felt like studying. What appealed to me at the English universities was that the courses were so much smaller - we started with 24 people and there were only 80 freshmen in mechanical engineering!

The first lectures were tough because I didn't even know all the terms from math and physics in English. But with a little help from my fellow students, things got better very quickly. What I also liked about the course of study was that a lot of project work was done. Because of that it was sometimes quite stressful in terms of time, but you learned an incredible amount in the process.

What advice would you give to a student who is considering whether to study in a STEM subject?

Go for it! There are so many exciting, meaningful and promising jobs in the MINT area that are a lot of fun.

In your free time, you prefer to spend time with my children in the great outdoors, with a good book, beautiful music at a concert or with yoga.

What projects are you currently working on and how can we imagine this field of work?

My “main project” is currently teaching - that means at the moment I am preparing lectures, exercises and internships for our students and then of course I also hold them. To do this, of course, I first have to think about what prospective engineers should know and be able to do before I think about how they can best learn it with my help.

In addition, I have just acquired my first research project, where I will examine together with students how the heat flows in a small combined heat and power unit (CHP) can be optimized. Such a CHP is used in apartment buildings to produce electricity and heat at the same time. This is often more efficient than burning lignite in large power plants to generate electricity. Thanks to the optimization, the CHP should work with even fewer losses.

Is it more difficult for a woman to work in a more male-dominated professional field? What is your experience in this regard?

As a woman, I am more noticeable than my colleagues, which can also have advantages: I am known very quickly in a new company! As a young professional, I thought it was a shame that I had so little in common with the other engineers in my department. As a result, I was always a bit left out. It is different now that we are all older and have families.

What special prior knowledge, skills and interests do you need for this professional profile?

The most important thing is curiosity and having fun solving problems. In addition, the ability to abstract helps - those who are reasonably good at math have that.

What do you find most fascinating about your job?

I have a lot of variety in my everyday life - the students are different every year and various research projects keep me faced with new professional challenges.

Are you active in projects / measures that aim to get young people excited about STEM? If so, how are you trying to achieve this goal?

I believe that it is particularly important to make women engineers visible to the public. That's why I take part in the VDI's “Role Models” project and am also active in the German Association of Women Engineers. In September 2011, for example, we honored the 25 most influential female engineers in Germany.

How do you manage to combine work and family?

I've worked part-time (50%) since the birth of my first child. I kept doing this during my doctorate, which therefore took 4 (and not 3) years. I took my daughter to work for the first 6 months - she was lying next to my desk and was very happy there. I had a day nursery at the university for my youngest child: if he wanted to be breastfed, they would call me. Both have allowed me to work without giving up being there for my babies.

I now work full-time and have a nanny who picks up the children from kindergarten. I'm always there for dinner, and I reserve one afternoon a week for her. And I never work on weekends!

What are your personal goals for your own career?

The only remaining professor is the university president ...

Source (portrait photo): HRW