"It was a unique opportunity to experience and to contribute to the constitution of a new research centre."

Romy Kohlmann worked at Fraunhofer IMW (previously known as Fraunhofer MOEZ) from 2006 to 2012, and has now moved on to a position in research management at the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center in Zurich, Switzerland. Ms. Kohlmann shares her experiences at the Leipzig Fraunhofer Center and how they have helped shape her career since.

Romy Kohlmann

Where do you work now?

I work at the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (PSC), a competence center that links and supports the plant science research community of the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich and University of Basel. The PSC is located at the ETH Zurich main campus in the heart of Zurich, Switzerland.

What is your current position title?

In general, I work as a research manager with currently two main fields of work:

  • PSC Financial Administration & EU-reporting
  • PlantHUB programme officer.

PlantHUB is the name of a new European Industrial Doctoral Programme (EID) funded by the H2020 PROGRAMME Marie Curie Actions – People, Initial Training Networks (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2016). The programme is managed by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center.

When did you work at Fraunhofer IMW?

I started working at Fraunhofer MOEZ (as it was then called) in August 2006 during the foundation phase of Fraunhofer IMW. I worked at the MOEZ until February 2012. Due to personal reasons (my husband got a permanent position in Switzerland after his PhD) I moved to Zurich and started working at the PSC in March 2012.

What unit did you work in?

I worked together with Dr. Steffen Preissler in the former divison: “Innovative Transfersysteme”.

Where did you study and what degrees did you achieve?

I studied political science and modern history at Leipzig University (2000-2006) with a main focus on analysis and comparison of political systems. From October 2003 until September 2004, I studied at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. In February 2006, I received my degree “Magister Artium” from the University in Leipzig. In Switzerland, from 2013 – 2014, I did an extra-occupational CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) in “Research Management” at the University of Bern. I am continuously participating in advanced vocational training in the field of research management.

What did you find particularly interesting about your work at Fraunhofer IMW (former Fraunhofer MOEZ)?

For me, it was and still is always a pleasure to work with people from different nations, cultures and scientific backgrounds. Thus, I found it particulary interesting and enriching to work at the Fraunhofer MOEZ as workplace with so many colleagues from different countries. Even though we all had different scientific knowledge and methods, we all worked together as a team.

What did it teach you and how did it prepare and help you pursue and fulfill the position you are holding now?

During my work at the Fraunhofer MOEZ I learned a lot about the acquisition and designing of a research project: how to identify third party funds, how to write a research proposal, how to find collaboration partners for a common research proposal, project, etc. This helped me a lot as grant-proposal writing in a team for national and international (especially EU-based) third party funding is an important part of my current work. Moreover, through the administration and implementation of multi-stakeholder projects, I gained a lot of experience, which helps me to perform my current tasks. One of the main memorable projects at the Fraunhofer MOEZ were the projects on Research for Sustainable Development (FONA) together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and five Eastern European countries.

What are you working on currently and what do you really enjoy about this job?

When I started working at the PSC in 2012, I was responsible for the implementation of an international EU Marie Curie Fellowship Programme for PostDocs (03/2012 – 08/2016), financed by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (GA-2010-267243 – PLANT FELLOWS). Since  December 2016, I have been the programme officer of a new 4-year European Industrial Doctoral Programme (EID) funded by the EU H2020 programme, which offers 10 PhD students training in the skills and competencies necessary to apply responsible research and innovation (RRI) in the area of plant breeding and production. (GA-2016-722338 – PlantHUB). Moreover, since 2013, I have been responsible for the entire financial administration of the PSC, mainly for the administration and controlling of the third-party funds from national as well as international funding agencies.  

Did you ever expect doing this while you were at Fraunhofer IMW (former Fraunhofer MOEZ)?

Yes and no. When I started working at Fraunhofer MOEZ, I had just graduated from university and it was my first full-time position. Given this fact together with the situation at that time, with the Fraunhofer institute in its foundation phase as well, I was very open-minded with no specific position in my mind. However, I realized during my 6 years at the MOEZ that I really like working in the research management field, instead of performing my “own” research.

What was your most memorable moment as a team member of Fraunhofer IMW?

Well, as I started working at the Fraunhofer institute during its foundation phase, the first years at the Fraunhofer MOEZ were a very memorable time for me. It was a unique opportunity to experience and to contribute to the constitution of a new research centre. It was a pleasure to see how the institute developed from a very small team with a couple of project ideas to a fully recognized research institute within the Fraunhofer family with a large team, different divisions and many research projects.

What is your lasting impression of Fraunhofer IMW?

When I read this question, I instantly thought about the team spirit at Fraunhofer MOEZ. For example, I recall the weekly team meetings on Thursday mornings in the former divison “Innovative Transfersysteme”. These meetings not only helped us to structure our work and to learn about the project status of our collegues, it was also quite often a nice opportunity for a good cup of coffee with the colleagues.

What future goals are you working towards?

At the moment, I’m working at the PlantHUB project and my goal for the near future is to finalize this EU doctoral program by the end of 2020. In a long-term perspective, I would like to keep working with EU-funded programs and projects as I really enjoy working with international research organisations and researchers in the context of EU-funded projects. 

How do you see the field you are working in change in the future?

Third-party funding becomes more and more important for developing and executing international research projects. Moreover, the requirements and complexity of such projects, especially on the level of EU-funding, are becoming more and more demanding and challenging. Therefore, the knowledge of people, specialized on research management, is crucial for successful implementation of such projects.