Support for young talent
Young scientists and highly trained specialists are the drivers of discoveries, ideas, and innovations of tomorrow’s society. 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 excellent 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 at all stages of their education. The aim is to promote and facilitate excellence in education, in vocational training, and at all career stages, as well as to compete internationally in attracting and retaining the brightest minds. The programme comprises four areas.
Arousing enthusiasm for science in children and young people
As many as 4,500 children and young people visit Forschungszentrum Jülich every year. School classes can experience the fascination of working in science in the institutes or at Jülich’s Schools Laboratory, JuLab. Active experimentation is the main focus here.
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 and 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 during the school holidays. Forschungszentrum Jülich also offers early encouragement for young and even preschool children. To this end, the “Kleine Füchse” daycare centre on campus is guided by the educational and didactic concept promoted by the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” (or “Little Scientists’ House” Foundation) and closely dovetails with JuLab.
Offering careers advice
Choosing a career is another important phase in young people’s education. With the aim of “identifying talents and supporting career decisions”, Forschungszentrum Jülich offers diverse opportunities to assist young people in their career choices. In doing so, it makes a point of promoting equal opportunity among boys and girls. The target groups are school students in classes 8–10 and in classes 10 and above who are interested in scientific and technical subjects. They are offered the opportunity to obtain direct insights into particular scientific topics and facets of various occupations. The various initiatives are organized by JuLab and the Vocational Training Centre together with the scientific institutes and infrastructure divisions.
Among these initiatives is JuBoP, Jülich’s new concept for work placements. This opens up new, flexible opportunities to assist students in choosing a career path. These work placements can last from a few days to several weeks and can be structured to take place in parallel with school lessons or in one stretch. Depending on preferences, placements can either offer insights into the whole of a professional field or into a specific occupation, in order to identify individual inclinations and career prospects. All placements include a personal consultation at the end of the placement, as well as job application training.
Zentrale Berufsausbildung (in German)
Boosting prospects through vocational training and dual study courses
Forschungszentrum Jülich is an extremely successful and well-connected partner in the region when it comes to vocational training. Since it was founded, well over 5,600 young people have completed their training here and laid the groundwork for their future career. At the same time, this enables Jülich to satisfy its own need for motivated and highly specialized skilled employees.
At present, there are around 310 trainees in over 20 different occupations, with the majority of them in the scientific and commercial-technical field. The quality of the vocational training is attested in the fact that many of the trainees complete their training with above-average success. The regional training network in the Euregio area, which facilitates exchange programmes with other institutions, joint training courses at institutions such as RWTH Aachen University, or participation in international competitions, for example, plays an important part in these endeavours.
Around one third of Jülich’s trainees are enrolled in a dual study programme. The practical training for the examinations by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) is generally undertaken at Forschungszentrum Jülich while the scientific and theoretical part, which leads to a bachelor’s degree, is usually completed at a university. Both elements are interlinked closely. Currently, dual study programmes are offered at Forschungszentrum Jülich in collaboration with Aachen University of Applied Sciences in six fields: business administration, scientific programming, applied chemistry, as well as physical, mechanical, and electrical engineering.
Experience research projects up close – Dissertations and research stays
At Jülich, students benefit from the opportunity to participate in interesting projects early on and thus become sought-after specialists and skilled professionals. Numerous institutes supervise students – for example as part of work placements or longer-term projects, such as the practical part of bachelor’s and master’s dissertations.
Various funding programmes provide international students with the opportunity to get an impression of living and working in a research environment. In the DAAD-RISE programme, for example, students from North America or the UK can perform research in one of Jülich’s institutes for a period of up to three months. Courses such as the IFF Spring School, which has been running for more than 45 years, enjoy international demand, consolidate cooperations with research institutions, and enable personal contacts to be established. Many of the participants return to Jülich later on in their career.
Dissertations as a career springboard
More than 1,000 doctoral researchers from about 50 countries are conducting research for their doctoral theses at Jülich. In addition to intensive scientific supervision in the institutes, Forschungszentrum Jülich offers all doctoral researchers an interdisciplinary training programme delivered in English through the JuDocs doctoral researchers’ platform. Courses such as “Good Scientific Practice” and “Scientific Presentation” are compulsory, while others like “Team Communication” and “Career Planning” are optional additions.
The institutes at Forschungszentrum Jülich work closely with the universities conferring the various doctoral degrees. In order to provide the best possible support to doctoral researchers, a committee consisting of experienced supervisors from various disciplines also monitors the work. If any conflicts arise in the course of the doctoral degree, there is an independent and strictly confidential crisis counselling team ready to help both doctoral researchers and supervisors.
What comes after the doctoral degree? After all, not all doctoral researchers stay in research. There are exciting prospects open to them in industry, business, consulting, and science management. The Career Center at Forschungszentrum Jülich provides information and advice to doctoral researchers about potential career paths.
Executives for science, industry, and research management
Early-career scientists in their postdoc phase receive personalized support based on close cooperation between the institutes at Jülich and the universities. Centrally coordinated funding programmes help top-class researchers to take a proactive approach to planning their career paths.
Altogether, there over 300 postdocs at Forschungszentrum Jülich on 31.12.2019. The group of postdocs is very diverse, with women making up 31 % and international researchers from over 40 countries accounting for 47 %. Various postdoc programmes provide individual funding for two or three years to further encourage scientific excellence after a promising doctoral thesis. Special encouragement is given to international exchange, which often forms the basis for further rungs on the career ladder.
During this period when they are involved in research, postdocs have to decide what direction they want to take in future: the academic career path, a move into business or research management, or even founding their own company. The Career Center offers support in making this decision with various events and a consultation service. Networking with partners, including those from outside the science community, allows joint programmes to be developed which highlight other career options and foster mobility to and from other fields of work related to science.
Successful start to a scientific management career
At Jülich, internationally outstanding postdocs are given the opportunity to establish their own young investigators groups. The process begins with a highly competitive multistage selection procedure. In 2019, there were 21 young investigators groups at Forschungszentrum Jülich, and eight of their leaders were junior professors. Forschungszentrum Jülich supports these outstanding young scientists with a range of services and offers, from info lunches to training courses and individual careers advice.
Cooperations with universities and non-university partners are a well-established practice at Jülich. The Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA) between RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich is a prime example of this. Furthermore, Jülich consistently pursues and expands its strong networks with the surrounding universities and support for international partnerships for joint training and qualification.