‘Now it’s me who explains technology to my father‘
In our series of 22 reports, we present a panorama of female researchers from various qualification levels and academic positions, ranging from students to W3 professors. With their individual career paths, the female researchers in STEM subjects act as role models to encourage young female researchers to pursue an academic career, giving interesting insights into their careers to date. The MINT experts also share aspects of their private lives.
Doctoral candidate Stefanie Klostermeier: ‘Now it’s me who explains technology to my father‘
From Erlangen to Harvard and back: Doctoral candidate Stefanie Klostermeier completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in materials science and engineering at FAU. After training in materials science and engineering, she wrote her Master’s thesis at Harvard Medical School. She is now completing a doctoral degree in neural mechanics at the Max Planck Center for Physics and Medicine in Erlangen. She is also involved in setting up an international collaboration with Harvard Medical School and ETH Zürich.
From mountain biking to STEM
As a mountain bike enthusiast, I was interested in technology from an early age and I soon learnt to repair my own bike. I like to understand the mechanisms behind how something works. I passed my final oral examination in mathematics at school with flying colours and taught myself coding.’
My research, my invention
‘My aim is to gain a better understanding of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s at the same time as reducing our dependence on animal testing. Before new, effective medicines can be developed, we first have to understand the underlying disease process. The medicine then undergoes various clinical testing stages, usually on humans and animals. I have developed a 3D gel in which human stem cells can grow. A 3D cell culture in a petri dish can imitate the cells in organs better, which can lead to important breakthroughs when designing new medicines. I am very pleased that thanks to the support of FAU and my mentors I have been able to create and patent a hydrogel like this that can be used to conduct research into diseases.
Science at FAU: For me, the opportunities are endless
‘What excites me about scientific work is that there are unlimited possibilities for finding creative solutions to problems, and the fact that these solutions will hopefully be able to help and cure people further down the line. I really enjoy working in a diverse international team. I was able to write my Master‘s thesis at Harvard Medical School in Boston/USA on the topic of Alzheimer’s thanks to an internal university travel grant related to the target agreements for increasing the proportion of women in academia as well as the Hans Weisser scholarship from the Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft. I especially appreciated being able to learn from so many very talented and at the same time down to earth people from a wide range of different subject backgrounds.’
How I work:
‘I spend a lot of time in the laboratory, consult with colleagues, prepare experiments using pipettes and microscopes, or purify cells. I then evaluate the results of my experiments after consulting with my supervisor. As I am involved in an international project, I also often communicate with our cooperation partners in the US and Switzerland.’
Still at school, but already launched a start-up
‘I don’t actively participate in international races anymore, but as a former professional mountain biker, I still go mountain biking a lot in my free time. I have also launched a start-up with my co-founder. We help customers on our comparison platform find the bike best suited to their body proportions and the best value for money. Exercise, nature and a community spirit are all very close to my heart.’
Women solve technical problems differently
‘In spite of some setbacks and a serious illness among my close family, I learnt never to give up. And to believe in my own vision and pursue it in spite of people close to me trying to put me off studying what I had chosen. At the beginning I was sceptical about whether a technical degree was the right thing for me, but now I can say in all honesty: yes, it is! Studying a male-dominated subject takes a bit of getting used to at first, as men take a different approach to solving technical problems. However, it is of course also a great opportunity to learn to see something from a different perspective. And now I can explain some technical aspects to my father!’
Be brave and have faith in your skills!
‘There will always be people around you who think that your plans and projects are unrealistic. However, this tends to reflect their own limited outlook on life, and has nothing to do with your skills and possibilities. And if something doesn’t work out in the first instance, you shouldn’t lose heart or give up straightaway. It is usually worth keeping at it. Dealing with failure is an important character-forming process. I would strongly recommend spending at least six months abroad while studying a STEM subject. You should apply for a scholarship a year beforehand to ensure that you have funding.’
My career plans:
‘First of all, I would like to complete my doctoral degree. If my publications are successful, I would be very happy to be offered a postdoctoral position.’
This article is part of the brochure “The Sky is the Limit”
Brochure “The Sky is the Limit”
Diverse, inspiring and innovative, the brochure “The Sky is the Limit” introduces female researchers in STEM subjects from the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Sciences in a series of varied interviews.
Other interviews are available on the Research website.
Download the brochure “The Sky is the Limit — Female STEM scientists at FAU”
The publication is the result of collaboration between RTG 2423 FRASCAL and the Office of Equality and Diversity. Dr. Susanne Stemmler conducted the interviews.