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03/20/20

Girls' Day 2020: Girls, decide for a scientific career!

Girls' Day 2020: Girls, decide for a scientific career!

The Girls' Day 2020 planned for 26 March will unfortunately not take place nationwide due to the current situation. Nevertheless, we want to inspire girls to decide for a scientific career. We have asked two of our female employees why it is especially interesting for women to work in the natural sciences and how they got there.

She works on the development of catalysts for sustainable chemical processes: Dr. Hilke Petersen, post-doctoral fellow in the research group of Powder diffraction and Surface Spectroscopy at the MPI für Kohlenforschung

Hilke Petersen grew up at the Danish border and studied chemistry in Bremen. As a teenager, she wanted to become a chemist or pilot, but decided to study chemistry due to a few centimetres of height shortage. Even during her school years, the 31-year-old had an affinity for natural sciences, which was encouraged by her teacher with many interesting practical exercises. "The fact that careers in the natural sciences should only be something for boys is actually an "image problem" in my opinion. Schools should encourage pupils to consider all possible career paths regardless of their gender," Hilke says.

The chemist likes to think back to her student days. Even if it was not always easy. "It can happen that you fail an exam or suffer other setbacks. But one learns from such experiences and it is worthwhile to carry on," says Hilke Petersen. Her time at the university has given her the ability to work independently and she has made many friendships which she still benefits from as contacts in her job. During her studies, Hilke completed various internships and participated in Germany-wide excursions to potential employers, summer schools and workshops in order to further her education and find her desired field of work.

Currently Hilke Petersen is working as a post-doctoral researcher in a research group where she is investigating the course of catalysis processes. What she appreciates most about her work is that it is varied and unpredictable, and that new research questions arise during her work. Her goal is to improve catalytic converters used, for example, in cars or in the chemical industry, so that CO2 can be reduced.

Hilke Petersen advises young women:

"Just go ahead and follow your curiosity. And if things get difficult at school or university, don't let yourself be intimidated by setbacks, but look for help and accept it. In addition, take advantage of all offers to get to know professions that interest you. The Chemistry Day or Girls' Day will give you good first impressions".

Here you can also find a (German) text on Veronia Dietl, working as a laboratory assistant in the gas chromatography.