Three speakers of the doctoral student initiative DO IT are going to represent the doctoral students of the HZI for one year. Their tasks include the organisation of projects promoting the cooperation between doctoral students of the HZI and other Helmholtz centres or institutes of other scientific organisations such as the Max-Planck Society. In addition, the DO IT speakers are intermediaries between the doctoral students and the HZI Graduate School with an open ear for the concerns of the PhD students at the centre.
Nadine Koch began her work last year in Dietmar Piepers research group “Microbial Interactions and Processes”. In March of this year, Nadiia Soklakova accompanied Theresia Stradal, who moved from Münster to the HZI, to work in Stradal’s new department of “Cell Biology”. Tobias Lübke has been a member of the research group “System-oriented Immunology and Inflammation Research” of Ingo Schmitz since July 2012. Laureen Ahlers, intern at the Public Relations Department, interviewed them about their new task.
Laureen Ahlers: Why did you decide to become DO IT speakers?
Nadiia Soklakova: It was self-evident to me that I will help other people if other people help me. It does not work just in one direction. There were DO IT speakers who made my workday easier and now I am one of those who help others and can give something in return.
Tobias Lübke: Yeah, that is how I see it too. Also, you get a good insight into things you might not get to know otherwise like the interaction with the executive management or an interview like this one. I think this may be helpful in the future as well.
LA: What did previous DO IT speakers do particularly well and what would you do differently?
Tobias Lübke: I think they did a very good job and were always there when you had a question or needed help. I have already seen two different groups of DO IT speakers and both tried to achieve a lot. I can’t tell yet what happens behind the curtains though. We will have better insights from here on.
Nadine Koch: It was very good that they started a discussion about the fact that some PhDs have a fellowship while others are on a contract. This means that the same work gets different pay. Also they advocated an improved holiday system. There really isn’t anything negative to say.
LA: Are there any fundamental changes to the initiative that need to be made?
Tobias Lübke: No, but there could be more active participation by the PhDs. Even when issues are being discussed that affect all doctoral students, often only very few show that they are interested. This should change, especially considering the large amount of work and time we put in.
Nadiia Soklakova: I have only been here for a few months, but I have already seen how much work some people invest into the initiative. This alone should be rewarded by more interest, but sometimes it does not happen for some reason.
LA: Do you have any ideas of new projects already?
Nadiia Soklakova: Sure, we have some ideas. Especially, joint activities would be good for everyone here at the centre. For instance, one could organise tabletop football tournaments or joint weekend trips to the Harz mountains.
Nadine Koch: The previous DO IT speakers did a survey at the PhD retreat and found out that the PhDs would like to have more activities offered to them. That is the reason why we are considering to offer monthly events like barbecues or film screenings. This also strengthens the solidarity amongst PhDs. We would also like to organise an international buffet at which the PhDs could present their national dishes as a vehicle to easily get in touch with other PhD students in a relaxed atmosphere and to learn about other countries and cultures.
LA: How much of your time goes into DO IT?
Tobias Lübke: Last week, we had our first meeting that took an hour. Today, we are going to spend two hours on our tasks. But there are three of us so we can split the work.
Nadine Koch: It also depends on how much time and work you want to contribute. It is an advantage, though, that our tasks as DO IT speakers do not mean that we “lose” time for our dissertation, since the work contracts are extended automatically by the HZI.
LA: What is the acceptance level of projects?
Tobias Lübke: Projects and events are pretty well-accepted, just when it comes to feedback and changes, there is often not much involvement. Most doctoral students are here for three years only and do not known their future after this time, which might be the reason why they are not as interested or motivated as they could be.
Nadine Koch: And also, half of the PhDs are from countries, in which problems might not be discussed as openly. It is always a matter of personality and mentality whether or not somebody will say what they dislike or just leave things as they are. One reason for us to become DO IT speakers was that we do speak up in public and are therefore in a position to change things.
LA: What do you plan to do first?
Tobias Lübke: Right now we are still in the transitional phase and need to familiarise ourselves with the new tasks. The previous DO IT speakers are very helpful in this regard. But we already have a number of ideas of what we would like to offer the doctoral students at the HZI in the upcoming year and what we want to achieve.
LA: Thank you very much for this interview.