Pupils spend their holidays in the lab

Ritter group participates in a special project with a local school

August 12, 2022

Pupils of a local school spent part of their summer holidays at the institute. Scientists and technicians of the Ritter group gave them an exciting insight into the working world of science. 

In a chemistry lab, things rarely turn out as they do in a textbook. So how does the real lab-life look like? During the summer vacations, chemistry students from the Luisenschule in Mülheim experienced what the everyday life of a researcher is like at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. The students visit is part of an established cooperation between the high-school and the institute.

"It's just great to have the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the things that interest you," says Judith Jantzen, one of the students. Together with eight classmates, she is spending her last week of summer vacation in the MPI's laboratories. The students do their own experiments and assist the staff in synthesizing products that are needed in real laboratory operations.

During their internship the teenagers are supervised by a team of the Department of Organic, led by Prof. Dr. Tobias Ritter, director at the institute. Pia Münstermann and her colleague Johanna Mengeler are both working as technicians at the MPI.

And Pia has been a student at the Luisenschule a couple of years ago. She was interested in chemistry, made contact with the MPI, just like the students are doing now, and she successfully applied.

"From our institute's point of view, this is precisely the great advantage of this cooperation," explains Dr. Verena Schultz-Coulon, the institute's administrative director. “On the one hand, we are fulfilling our mission to communicate the topics of research to the students in a way that is appropriate for the target audience. On the other hand, we might attract new coworkers.”

Is working in a laboratory the right thing for me? This is what the students try to find out this week. "Dropout rates in science degree programs are currently quite high. And there is a lot of frustration at the beginnings of technical apprenticeships. You don't get a Nobel Prize right after your first experiments," Dr. Beate Schulte comments. She is a chemistry teacher at the Luisenschule and coordinator of the STEM area at her school. Extracurricular projects like the one at the MPI might help to paint a more realistic picture of what awaits young people after school.

The project to promote young scientists has also attracted the interest of the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. A delegation has recently come to the MPI to see the students' work.

In this context, a regional cooperative provides financial support for the Luisenschule so that, among other things, equipment and chemicals can be purchased for chemistry classes. Beate Schulte and her colleagues might get the next generation of students excited about chemistry. The next group from the Luisenschule will visit the Department of Organic Synthesis at the MPI soon - during their autumn holidays.

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