Following her own footsteps: Berfin Göker

Berfin Göker is training as a chemical laboratory assistant at our institute.

March 07, 2024

To start an apprenticeship in natural sciences is a challenge for many young women. Are the subjects right for me? Would I not rather do something else? If you were born with a disability, it becomes even more challenging. But some see a big challenge as something positive. Berfin Göker, who is currently doing an apprenticeship to become a chemical laboratory technician at our Institute, is hearing-impaired. At the vocational school and at the MPI, the 24-year old has to overcome many hurdles that hearing people do not have to face. Despite her handicap, Berfin is very successful and was even awarded the Ernst Haage Prize for apprentices in 2023. In our interview series “Minerva's Daughters”, she talks about her everyday life in the "hearing world".

Berfin Göker is training as a chemical laboratory assistant at our institute. She is in her third year of training and is currently working in Professor List's department. Due to her good performance, she can shorten her training and will take her exam in summer.

What brought you here? Tell us about your way to the Kohlenforschung!
Berfin Göker: I graduated at the RWB (Rheinisch-Westfälisches-Berufskolleg) in Essen, a vocational college for deaf and hearing-impaired people. During chemistry lessons, a young teacher inspired us with his passion for chemistry. His enthusiasm awakened my own passion for chemistry and strengthened my interest. As a result, I actively looked for an internship in order to prepare myself as well as possible for a training as a chemical laboratory assistant. After a one-year internship at the MPI, I was able to start an apprenticeship. I am deeply grateful to my training manager, Laila Sahraoui who - despite the many obstacles due to my hearing loss - firmly believes in me and gives me this valuable opportunity.

What do you like about your job?
Berfin: I particularly appreciate the opportunity to work in the List department now, where I can learn new things every day. It makes me happy when we can achieve good yields. However, I have realized that even less satisfactory results can be valuable lessons. They open the door for us to look for other solutions or new approaches. I have learned that in every result, whether positive or negative, lies an opportunity for personal growth and development.

What are your professional goals?
Berfin: My first goal is to complete my training as a chemical laboratory technician successfully. Getting there is a challenge for me and it is often a struggle. The many limitations due to my hearing impairment don not make it easy. Unfortunately, there are still no offers or support in vocational schools for deaf and hard of hearing people, both for training and further education opportunities, especially in the natural sciences. For example, there is a lack of sign language support for teachers. My current goal is to work successfully as a chemical laboratory assistant in analytics.

What was the most difficult step so far?
Berfin: Transitioning from my deaf world to the hearing world has been the most challenging step I have ever taken. I had to redefine my own identity and find the best way to communicate with hearing and English-speaking people. I grew up with sign language. The spoken language classes and the lack of detailed transcripts were often stressful because my ears do not have the same capacity as others. It was a struggle to convince the Employment Agency to pay for written interpreters. I have this support now, and they type oral presentations in class down for me but this cannot fully compensate for disadvantages. Many people know little about the needs and experiences of deaf and hard of hearing people, which is unfortunate.

Who is your role model?
Berfin: There was no role model. In a world where I could not follow similar paths because of my situation, I had to find my own way to achieve my dream job. I did not have a specific person whose footsteps I could follow. This journey of self-discovery and forging my own path has been challenging but incredibly fulfilling. I am proud to be my own role model and to show that it is possible to achieve your dreams, even when there are obstacles in the way.

What advice would you give to young girls who are interested in working in a scientific institution?
Berfin: To all the young girls out there: If I can achieve this as a young woman with my severe disability, then you can even more so! Believe in yourself and do not let anyone put you down, even if no one else believes in you. Find your passion, stick to it and fight for your goals. Do not let your disability, religion, background or anything else hold you back. You are strong and capable, so bravely go your way!

If you could make one wish: What would it be?
Berfin: I have an abundance of wishes... (laughs) Through my passion for traveling, both in wealthy and poorer countries, I have experienced many wonderful things, but also gained deep insights. My wish is for a world free of injustice, prejudice, poverty, selfishness, arrogance, coldness and war. I dream of a world of down-to-earthness, peace, justice, solidarity, respect, empathy, harmony and cohesion.

Therefore, my message to society is: I encourage you all to reflect on yourselves and to show consideration for one another.

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