Dr. Maïssa Barr was born in France in 1989. She earned her Bachelor's degree in physics and chemistry at the University of Aix-Marseille and did her Master's in materials science, including electrochemistry and the study of materials for advanced technology. After an internship at the Atomic Energy Center in Grenoble, she knew she wanted to pursue academic research with nanomaterials. She earned her PhD in 2016 and, after another year as a teaching and research assistant in the south of France, decided to do a postdoc abroad. It made sense to come to FAU, as her institute had a long-standing collaboration with the Department of Chemistry of Thin Film Materials. However, two days before she left for Germany, she found out she was pregnant ...

Physicist Dr. Heike Leutheuser, 34, has been director of the Central Institute of Medical Engineering (ZiMT) at FAU since 2017. The office, located in the former Siemens showroom on Henkestrasse in Erlangen, functions as an interdisciplinary communication centre between the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Sciences. Key topics are research funding, university education, support for start-ups and networking in industry and healthcare. The ZiMT office assists with the course offer and advisory services for the Medical Engineering degree programme at FAU.

For mathematician PD Dr. Nadja Ray, mathematical equations and models have a practical purpose: the researcher and head of a junior research group at the Chair of Applied Mathematics, Modelling and Numerics is investigating porous microstructures in soil within the context of several DFG projects. Her work contributes to protecting the climate and the environment. The 38-year-old Privatdozentin is currently at an exciting stage in her career. Only recently, she was awarded the coveted Habilitation Prize from the Faculty of Sciences during the FAU Awards. That apart, the mathematician, who currently has a permanent position at FAU, has been offered a professorship at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, but only on a temporary basis.

Anne Zartmann, born in 1997, originally comes from near Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg. After school, where she predominantly focused on natural and social sciences, she studied food chemistry at FAU – a STEM subject highly relevant to everyday life, where at FAU there are more female than male students. After nine semesters, she sat her state examination and wrote her final thesis on omega-3 fatty acids in food supplements. She is about to start her doctoral degree and is completely open-minded as far as her career is concerned.

Rahel Olivia Algül, born in 1994 in Füssen, has Aramaic roots and was brought up in a large family in the Allgäu in Germany. Her interest in science was sparked at an early age, partly thanks to one of her uncles who was training to become a prospective physician. At the end of the day, however, her decision to study a STEM subject was based on more rational considerations, namely the good career prospects. At FAU, she first completed a Bachelor’s degree in life science engineering. She then changed to chemical and biological engineering (CBI), and is currently working on her Master’s.

Nina Reiter, born (in 1995) and brought up in Fürth got a taste for technical professions from an early age, both thanks to her family and at school. At FAU, she completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in mechanical engineering. She is currently completing a doctoral degree in biomechanics, focusing on the mechanical properties of brain tissue. Her research is looking into developing methods for protecting the brain, for example in case of an accident. After completing her doctoral degree, she hopes to pursue a career in academia and become a professor.

Doctoral candidate Malvina Supper works in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at FAU and is a far-travelled young researcher. Internships and study visits brought her around the globe and so it is no surprise that the 30-year-old engineer is looking for a postdoctoral position abroad after finishing her doctoral degree. Originally, she had planned a career in art as she struggled with maths.

Dr Christina Müdsam holds a Master of Science and, as a molecular biologist and research associate, is conducting plant research at the Chair of Cell Biology. ‘My workplace on FAU’s southern campus is surrounded by so much greenery that you already feel like a proper biologist for that reason alone,’ she says enthusiastically. Müdsam, a native Franconian, is studying processes and genetic modifications in plant cells. Even if she loves her research at FAU, she struggles now and again with the fact that there is a shortage of permanent jobs and an uncertain future in science. But she doesn’t want to let that spoil her fun and her passion for research.

Dr. Aswathy Muttathukattil comes from Kerala, speaks Malayalam, and has dedicated herself scientifically to physical chemistry. Kerala is a tropical state in southwestern India with a population of 33 million, green landscapes, palm trees, and beaches on the Arabian Sea; the language Aswathy speaks alongside English looks as beautifully written as a garland of flowers. She grew up privileged, the 31-year-old FAU postdoctoral researcher says, and when she speaks of her homeland, her eyes light up. She comes from a large, supportive family and enjoyed free access to education. That's not a given for girls in India, she points out, but it is in the state where she grew up.

Professor Katharina Herkendell is a qualified bioengineer. She completed her studies, which included research visits in the USA, India and Israel, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). After just three years, she already had her doctoral degree from the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich under her belt and then spent a further year there as a postdoctoral researcher. This also explains how – at the age of just 33 – in September 2020 she was appointed as assistant professor at the Institute of Energy and Process Engineering.