Promoting Young Talent at all Stages of Education
Young scientists and a highly qualified workforce are particularly important when it comes to producing new research findings and innovative ideas as well as transporting knowledge into the future. Global contacts, a networked approach to work, autonomous research, an excellent infrastructure, and attentive supervision by experienced scientists all contribute to the creative atmosphere that makes Forschungszentrum Jülich so attractive for young scientists.
Jülich encourages young people’s interest in science from a very early age. Under the umbrella of its 'juelich_horizons' programme, Forschungszentrum Jülich offers a wide range of opportunities and perspectives for young people and scientists at all stages of their education. All of them aim to generate excellence in education, vocational training, and on all stages of the career ladder, as well as to compete internationally in attracting and retaining the brightest minds. The programme comprises four areas.
Encouraging young people's interest in science at an early age: juelich_impulse
About 4,500 children and young people visit Forschungszentrum Jülich every year. As part of visits with their schools, they experience the fascination of science in the institutes or use the facilities of the Jülich Schools Laboratory, JuLab, where they can carry out their own experiments.
In addition, about 320 school students every year are given the opportunity to get their first taste of working life on campus during a placement in one of Forschungszentrum Jülich's institutes and infrastructure divisions. Jülich also takes part in Girls' Day and is involved in special cooperations, for example with the local girls' secondary school (Mädchengymnasium Jülich), as well as in Girls' Technology Day in order to jump-start girls' and young women's interest in STEM subjects, i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
JuLab also hosts the regional heat of the annual 'Jugend forscht – Schüler experimentieren' competition for young researchers and offers research weeks for children and teenagers who are particularly interested and talented. With these activities, Forschungszentrum Jülich makes an important contribution to promoting excellence in children and teenagers.
In future, Jülich will also place greater emphasis on children in kindergarten and primary school. Current findings from the field of developmental psychology show that early childhood is a crucial period for child development. Even very young children and pre-school children are already in the process of developing mathematical and scientific competencies that should be encouraged as early as possible.
The envisaged company kindergarten is to take this fact into account. It will be designed as the first module in Jülich's concept for promoting young talent at all stages of education, and its pedagogic and educational concept will follow that of the 'Little Scientists' House' foundation. The kindergarten's activities will also be closely dovetailed with those of JuLab, which will facilitate an easy transition to the Schools Laboratory's successful programmes.
Creating perspectives in vocational training and dual study courses: juelich_tracks
With respect to vocational training programmes, Forschungszentrum Jülich is outstandingly successful and is an important partner with a well-established network in the region. Since its foundation, Jülich has trained more than 4,400 young people. It currently provides vocational training in 26 skilled occupations.
Together with the neighbouring universities of applied sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich offers dual study programmes in six subjects, which combine hands-on vocational training at Forschungszentrum Jülich with a university course. From 2013, RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich will also provide joint vocational training in electronics engineering for devices and systems as part of JARA and thus take on a leading role in establishing innovative training programmes.
There have been more training places than applicants in Germany since 2011. For Forschungszentrum Jülich, this means that it will have to intensify its efforts to attract trainees from all over Germany and beyond, and to use proactive recruitment and marketing strategies to find suitable candidates that meet its high requirements of excellence. The regional training network in the Euroregion, which facilitates exchange programmes with other institutions, for example, could play an important part in these endeavours.
Forschungszentrum Jülich also intends to break new ground when it comes to methods, and is currently introducing an online course system that will supplement the existing options for individual support and the range of training opportunities. This will enable employees to acquire new knowledge at a time and place of their choosing, and to nurture their talents and address their weaknesses.
University degrees and PhDs as a stepping stone: juelich_chances
At Jülich, students and PhD candidates benefit from the opportunity to conduct research and work on interesting projects early on and thus evolve into sought-after specialists and skilled professionals. Numerous institutes supervise students – for example as part of work placements as well as longer-term projects, such as the practical part of bachelor's and master's dissertations.
Students from abroad come to Jülich within the scope of funding programmes and can gain an impression of living and working in a research environment at an early stage of their careers. Within the China Scholarship Council (CSC) programme, ten to fifteen PhD students or postdocs per year come to Forschungszentrum Jülich for a period of six months to four years. Every year, DAAD RISE gives about ten students from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain the opportunity to come to one of Jülich's institutes to perform research there for up to three months. Courses such as the IFF Spring School, which has been running for more 40 years, consolidate cooperations with research institutions and enable personal contact. Many of the participants return to Jülich later on in their career.
Forschungszentrum Jülich and the universities are close partners when it comes to training and supervising PhD students. Thanks to reliable framework conditions and well-structured training programmes, the majority of the students complete their PhD within the scheduled period. These early-career scientists benefit not only from the fact that experts in the institutes provide intensive supervision, but also that the Doctoral Committee closely monitors their research project. Graduate colleges and schools also offer subject-specific training as well as training in soft skills. The German Research School for Simulation Sciences (GRS) gives postgraduate and PhD students the chance to learn the ropes of simulation sciences and perform cutting-edge research. The International Helmholtz Research School BioSoft provides excellent opportunities for PhD theses at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and physics. The Helmholtz Graduate School for Energy and Climate Research (HITEC), which comprises almost all PhD students in the fields of energy and environmental research, provides both scientific training and workshops on presentation techniques and writing scientific texts. The aim is that, in future, all PhD students will benefit from a modular graduate programme.
Executives for cutting-edge research: juelich_heads
Early-career scientists in their postdoc phase receive personalized support in close cooperation between the institutes and universities. The centrally coordinated support programmes subsumed under 'juelich_heads' assist excellent minds in actively planning their careers. For example, Jülich helps postdocs to establish independent young investigators groups that cooperate closely with universities. This affords young scientists the opportunity to qualify for an academic career, such as a junior professorship. There are currently around 20 young investigators groups on campus. The heads of these groups are selected in international competitions.
The new Helmholtz postdoc programme, in which Forschungszentrum Jülich is also involved, allows promising scientists to expand their own area of research after successfully completing their PhD. With seven candidates selected for funding, Forschungszentrum Jülich was the most successful Helmholtz institution in the first round of the funding programme in 2012.
In order to create further incentives and raise external awareness of excellence here, Forschungszentrum Jülich invites nominations for the Jülich Excellence Prize every year. It is awarded to scientists who, in the opinion of internationally respected experts, are among the best of their peers in their area of research and who have received visible recognition for their scientific achievements at an international level.
Special services will be introduced to provide even better support for all of these young executives to prepare them for an international career in science.