In the end of July the Helmholtz-Juniors (or more informally “HeJu”) got together for their mid-term meeting at the Helmholtz Association’s head office in Berlin. It was the second time we met this year after our first meeting at the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in January.
It is useful to mention here that the HeJu’s are not an official body of the Helmholtz Association, but a diverse group of volunteering PhD students who are committed to improve PhD working conditions and connect PhDs within the Helmholtz Association as well as within Germany (look at this map to see where we are located). This includes a cacophony of emails, phone calls, doodle lists, literature research and skype conferences. And all that we are trying to manage on the side to our own demanding PhD projects, of course.
But, I was really looking forward to the meeting as we had set ambitious goals back in January and our predecessors had informed us that it might be difficult to keep up the motivation for our projects throughout the entire year. Thus, we decided to get together again already after half a year to renew our HeJu energy.
So, there we were: One and a half days full of reports, heated discussions, brainstorming and coffee overflow. First of all our spokespersons Nicholas and Sripriya and our four working groups presented the progress so far. The main achievements have been the active participation in an update of the Helmholtz Association’s official PhD guidelines (which virtually has some effect on all Helmholtz PhD students), the finishing of our “Helmholtz PhD booklet” (we will keep you posted about this!) and the launch of this year’s PhD survey (where every PhD student under Helmholtz can actually help to improve the conditions, hopefully you all took part. But, don’t worry if not, it’s still possible until Sep 19th!!! Go for it!).
Thanks to our “events” group who was busy organizing this meeting we’ve been in close contact with officials of the Helmholtz Association and the direct feedback was helping a lot to shape common goals and to identify certain (im)possibilities. For instance, what financial support can we expect and what are the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an official body of the Helmholtz Association? A topic so fundamental, that the formation of a new working group was required to evaluate its pros and cons. But, a special treat for us was the visit of Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mlynek, president of the Helmholtz Association, who took some time to welcome us personally in the headquarter and also stayed for a quick Q&A session (see header). How much closer can you get as a PhD student to the very head of your research organization?
During several sessions the individual working groups discussed and developed new ideas and eventually set the goals for the rest of the term. Furthermore, we were lucky to talk with the public relations officials, who gave us vital support on our visibility and communication structure as well as an insight into their day-to-day work. A result of which we have this brand new Blog you happened to be reading right now and the new HeJu’s logo.
So, what is left to do for this year? Of course, the discussion on the PhD guidelines is not over yet and will go on. One goal, for example, is to increase contract positions for PhDs in relation to scholarships. The “survey” group will have a busy time analyzing the survey results and wrapping that up until January next year, when the HeJu’s meet again at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. The PhD booklet will be published and available for everyone who’s interested (some interviews with the people involved will be up as well). We are also planning a special event where PhD students can connect and get information on career options and this Blog will be filled with more articles about our work as HeJu’s and topics about PhD life in general. Feel free to comment and ask questions below.