My career should also match my political standpoint

Photo of a young woman who is waving the rainbow flag
Bachelorstudentin Frederike Jäschke (Bild: Giulia Iannicelli/FAU)

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.

Bachelor’s degree student Frederike Jäschke: ‘My career should also match my political standpoint’

Frederike Jäschke didn’t know Erlangen at all before she came to study here. Born in Dorsten on the edge of the Ruhr area in 1999, she completed a voluntary year of social service in a welfare institution after finishing school. After that, she didn’t want to return to her old hometown but instead get to know another part of Germany. That this turned out to be Erlangen happened rather by coincidence. But not her choice of subject. In 2018, she began her degree in chemical and biological engineering. After two semesters, she switched to chemistry – and is very happy with her decision. Now, at the end of her Bachelor’s degree, an Erasmus semester in Spain is on the agenda.

Chemistry … because of the moments when the penny drops!

‘I would say that I’m a person with very broad interests. I like dealing with people and getting to grips with political and social topics, but I’m also interested in the natural sciences. What I like about studying chemistry are the moments when the penny drops. What I mean by that is the feeling I get after thinking for a while about how things piece together that I so far hadn’t understood. I prefer to learn like that rather than simply to amass knowledge.’

Portrait Friederike Jäschke
Friederike Jäschke, student (Image: Giulia Iannicelli/FAU)

Already during her Bachelor’s degree: Jobs at FAU

‘I had a job at the university hospital for over two years, where I conducted surveys with stroke patients for a study. In parallel, I worked as a tutor several times, headed work groups and once also supervised a practical course in physical chemistry. It’s fulfilling to pass on and share the knowledge I’ve learned. And I’ve also already done a computational chemistry internship.’

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Practical work with good supervision

‘What I like most about my chemistry degree is the large proportion of practical courses. Carrying out syntheses myself that have already been discussed theoretically in the lecture helps me to understand the material. Apart from which, I find studying chemistry very diversified: alongside courses that focus on synthesizing molecules, there are also ones that centre on physics and maths topics. The good supervision at FAU and the wide variety of practical courses in my degree programme are big advantages. Especially in the case of the lab classes, where we often handle hazardous substances, it’s good to know that someone experienced is nearby if I have any questions.’

My networks at FAU

‘My fellow students are naturally my most helpful network here in Erlangen. Without my learning group, my studies would not run particularly smoothly. Also important is the work done by my programme’s Student Council Initiative, which doesn’t just collect old exam papers and sell lab coats to new students but above all also campaigns for better teaching.’

Not automatically a nerd

‘Although studying makes up a large part of my life, I still find enough time to pursue other interests. Just because I’ve chosen a degree on FAU’s southern campus doesn’t make me a nerd! I’m also politically active and helping to shape our political education work.’

Chemistry – the right decision

‘Luckily, and unlike medicine, for example, more or less anybody with a university entrance qualification can study a STEM subject. There is no restricted admission in most subjects. However, many of the people around me would have envisaged me more in a social profession. Constantly having to justify my decision to others and questioning it myself because of the endless discussion was exhausting. But the fact that I was then accepted for funding from a foundation, after I was able to convince a panel about me as a person and my study plans, gave me the feeling that I’d made the right decision in choosing chemistry as my subject.’

STEM? Simply try it out!

‘My advice for schoolgirls is: Simply try STEM subjects out! I’m sure that your best friend doesn’t question his decision to study mechanical engineering as much as you do your decision in favour of a STEM subject – and he hasn’t dealt with technical questions in any greater depth yet either. Don’t let yourself be intimidated when others tell you how hard studying physics or engineering is or how demanding the practical courses at university are. All the exams are doable, and the practical courses are often really interesting.’

More women – that would be great

‘Naturally it would be great if lectures were held by women now and again. During my entire Bachelor studies, I attended only one single lecture by a female professor. Apart from which, the teaching staff need to do more to create a learning atmosphere in which female students are also bold enough to participate in scientific discussions. Particularly during the online semester, it was almost exclusively men who actively took part in class in many of my seminars.’

My career wish:

‘I’d like to work in a team later on and take on responsibilities – and this preferably in projects that have a practical relevance. I don’t have any more specific plans for my career, and I know hardly anyone from my Bachelor’s degree whose answer would be more detailed. At the start of university, it’s still a bit unsatisfying not knowing what the goal is. But I’ve meanwhile come to terms with that. I’ll continue with my degree first and then see what comes afterwards. It will still be a few years before I start my career because after my Master’s degree, which I definitely want to do, I’ll hopefully do a doctoral degree, like almost all chemistry students. I would like my later career to be in line with what’s important to me politically. My future employer should make the question of sustainability just as much a top priority as the question of profit.

This article is part of the brochure “The Sky is the Limit”

Headerimage The Sky is the Limit
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.