Minerva’s daughters: A lifelong love of learning

Meet Saskia Schulthoff, technician and chairperson of our works coucil. 

May 24, 2023

When Saskia Schulthoff told her parents that she wanted to drop out of school, they weren't particularly happy at first. But then the young woman began an apprenticeship at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung - a step she has never regretted.

Saskia Schulthoff works as a technician in the department of Organometallic Chemistry. She has been active for years as chairwoman of our works council. Her path at Kohlenforschung began in September 2003, when she started her training as a technician.

What brought you here? Tell us about your way to the Kohlenforschung!
Saskia Schulthoff: My best friend and I went to high school in Oberhausen, and we were in the 10th grade. It was clear to both of us that we wanted to leave school and go to work. Career counseling gave us the idea to become technicians. From my point of view, that was a good match, because I have always enjoyed science. At school, I found a poster saying that the Max Planck Institute in Mülheim was offering apprenticeships. I applied for it. But frankly speaking, it was an advertisement from the neighbor institute, not from Kohlenforschung (laughs). I ended up here because both institutes have been cooperating in the area of apprenticeship for many years.

What do you like about your job?
Saskia: No day is like the other. We are constantly confronted with new topics; have to deal with new projects and with very different people. And all this while working in the lab - that's the greatest thing for me anyway. Natural product chemistry is fascinating. We build large molecules from small components. There's a playful part to it, but at the same time you have to be very precise and work accurately. And you learn something new all the time.

What are your professional goals?
Saskia: I never want to lose the curiosity for my work. You cannot stop being interested in things; otherwise, you lose touch very quickly. If I manage to maintain the desire to learn and the desire to solve problems in the future, then I will be satisfied.

What  was your most difficult step so far?
Saskia: That was the decision to leave school after 10th grade. At the time, my parents were not enthusiastic about the idea. My father only calmed down after I had the written contract of the Institute in my hands. Technical school after the training was also exhausting - but not as exhausting as the discussions with my parents (laughs). What was also not so easy was the decision to take over the chairmanship of the works council at the age of 26. But with the support of the team, I dared to do it - and it worked out.

Who is your Role Model?
Saskia: My older sister - she's just cool. She's bailed me out a few times when we were younger, and we get along very well. And the women in Iran should be a very big role model for all of us: they stand up for their rights. These women risk so much, even though they know about the potential consequences - for me this is the epitome of true courage.

What is your advice to young girls interested in a job in a scientific institution?
Saskia: Just do it - and don't ruin everything by overthinking it! The first few days on the job can be stressful if you're only used to school life, but you should definitely not let that discourage you.

If you could make one wish: What would it be?
Saskia: If I actually had one wish, I would like to go out for another currywurst with my father, who passed away some time ago.

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