STEPS

Within its institutional strategy, the university has implemented various measures to support young scientists at all levels, to achieve equal opportunities for all women and men in science, and to promote diversity and family-friendliness at the workplace. STRUCTURES takes advantage of these institutional measures, complementing them by additional support programs, management strategies, and outreach activities specific to our field. These are implemented within the STRUCTURES Training and Education Program for Success, STEPS, which builds on the rich experiences of our PI’s in international universities and research institutions.

The foundation of STRUCTURES’s support of early career researchers is laid in the two Graduate Schools in Fundamental Physics and in Mathematics and Computation, HGSFP and HGS MathComp, which have a proven track record of leading to successful careers of young scientists, from award-winning doctoral researchers that have since been continuing at the best universities in the world, to group leaders and junior professors that have advanced to tenured faculty positions. The graduate schools offer a modular course program and a structured graduate education that requires certain classes and seminars (all offered in English). Each student receives an individually tailored curriculum that takes into account his or her prior education and knowledge, signs a supervision agreement, and is assigned a thesis committee consisting of the primary advisor and two additional scientists. These monitor the doctoral researcher’s progress through regular meetings and advise him or her in the case of problems. The graduate schools provide funding for independently organized workshops and schools. Finally, the doctoral researchers gain teaching experience by supervising laboratory or exercise classes, another important and indeed obligatory part of their education.

In STRUCTURES we will go beyond the graduate schools both in size and in scope. Further support for young researchers in the cluster is provided by STEPS, the STRUCTURES Training and Education Program for Success. Our approach is based on the fact that a successful career in academia as well as in industry or public service is made by advancing step-by-step, and that each step along the career path requires specific skills and competences. STEPS will establish a variety of measures that enable young scientists at different stages of their academic career to successfully advance to the next level. Its main components are a strong mentoring program, support enabling early independence, and international networking.

Mentoring Program – The mentoring program puts particular emphasis on the transition points, when the young researchers move from one step to the next. These transitions points – from master student to doctoral researcher, from doctoral researcher to postdoc, from postdoc to assistant professor, from assistant professor to professor – provide challenges that are different for different people. Consequently, the STEPS mentoring program will be adjusted to the specific needs of each young scientist in the cluster. These transitions are particularly critical for women in academia. STEPS thus plays an important role in retaining and encouraging young women to pursue a scientific career. We will draw on our experience and work closely together with UPSTREAM, the cross-career mentoring program for women, which was built in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science under the guidance of one of our PIs. A strong emphasis within STEPS lies on providing an environment that puts all young scientists in the position to combine a successful career with the development of their personal lives, in particular with having a family and raising children.

Our mentoring program rests on the fact that through the esprit de corps created in STRUCTURES College young scientists will work closely together with researchers at all career levels. The scientists on the steps ahead of more junior ones will serve as role models and mentors. In STEPS, every young scientist will be assigned a mentor from the career level one step ahead. The mentor will help the young scientist settle in when he/she arrives, provides guidance and advice, and prepares him/her for the transition to the next career step, which might be taken within Heidelberg University or with another employer. The mentorship relation will benefit not only the mentee, but also the mentor as reflecting on own experiences will be valuable for planning out the next career steps. It is key for STEPS that all career levels (from starting doctoral researchers to experienced professor) are well represented, and we stress that the implementation of new tenure-track professorships in STRUCTURES fills a crucial gap in the traditional career path at German universities.

Early Independence – In order to allow the young scientists to develop early independence and to pursue their own ideas, the doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in STRUCTURES will have a budget for visitors and conferences, allowing them to organize their own lecture series, invite speakers, and run workshops and meetings. Upon request, all senior researches, in particular the STRUCTURES Fellows, will be available for scientific advice and input. The STRUCTURES management will help with the practical implementation. These measures will allow young scientists in STRUCTURES to establish ties to distinguished researchers worldwide and to set up a fruitful collaborative network. The experience and skills they will obtain are not only important assets for a successful career in academia, but are also beneficial for a position in industry or public services. Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in STRUCTURES will build their own young researchers convent and elect one representative, who will speak on their behalf in the steering committee. The representatives will also be responsible to discuss the budget with the STRUCTURES management.

International Networking – The continuous exchange of scientific ideas and knowledge in a stimulating collaborative network is of vital importance for a successful career path in academia. STRUCTURES College will provide the setting for that, creating a vibrant environment for scientific debate with leading scientists, frequent international workshops, special lecture series and summer schools, and strong worldwide research collaborations. The internationality of groups in STRUCTURES and the research links of the PIs provide an ideal environment for young scientists to start building their own scientific network.