It's done! After years of challenges, moments of happiness and stressful phases, you finally hold your long-awaited PhD certificate in your hands. But what comes next? The career paths after the dissertation are very diverse. We have asked former DPZ graduates from the past 15 years what their career path has been like after successfully completing their dissertation.
Staying in science – Laura Busse completed her PhD in 2006 in the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory with Stefan Treue and received the DPZ award for her outstanding scientific work as a doctoral student in 2007. After her PhD, she held two postdoctoral positions with Matteo Carandini, first at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, USA (2007-2008) and then at University College London, UK (UCL, 2008-2009). In Carandini's group, she was able to develop her skills in data analysis methods and modeling and also contributed to the implementation of the mouse as a model system for visual processing in his lab. In early 2010, she got the great opportunity to establish an independent junior research group at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN) at the University of Tübingen. Working with this junior research group gave her the necessary qualifications and experience for a position as W2 Professor of Organismic Neurobiology at the LMU Munich, which she took up in 2016. Today, she uses mice to investigate visual information processing in the circuits that connect the retina to the primary visual cortex. For Laura, an academic career was the only option from the outset and, as you can see, she has found her way.
Back to school – Towards the end of his PhD in the Cognitive Ethology Laboratory in 2015, Philip Wadewitz decided to change course and leave his academic career behind. Although he enjoyed his research and had offers for exciting postdoc positions on the horizon, the career ladder of researchers often ends in management positions, where bureaucratic tasks eventually gain the upper hand, leaving little time for research itself. As Philip has always enjoyed teaching, he decided to become a teacher and encourage children and young people to learn about biological topics. After his PhD, he therefore completed a Bachelor's and Master's degree in sport in Cologne within two and a half years - his compulsory second subject, which is necessary to be able to work as a teacher. He then spent a year and a half doing his traineeship at a grammar school, which he successfully completed in October last year. Philip is currently a substitute teacher at a comprehensive school, but plans to find a permanent position by next summer. Philip is very happy with his career choice, although he emphasizes that teaching at schools is not comparable to teaching at universities. For this reason, Philip also warns that the teaching profession should not be a stopgap solution for researchers who are simply looking for a career change but have no passion for the profession.
Staying true to your own motivation – Franziska Dahlmann was passionate about scientific work right from the start. During her studies in veterinary medicine, she completed various internships in Germany and abroad to strengthen her knowledge of virological research topics. As a doctoral student in the Infection Biology Unit, she was finally able to get to know "real science", i.e. basic research. From 2012 to 2018, she also worked as a veterinarian on weekend standby and as a deputy animal welfare officer at Charles River Laboratories in Göttingen. After completing her PhD, she worked as a postdoc in Sascha Knauf's "Primate Research" group, which was part of the Infection Pathology department. In collaboration with the Fraunhofer ITEM, initially under the direction of Sascha Knauf, and later under Franziska's direction, experiments were carried out to investigate novel drugs against lung diseases, both using alternative methods and in animal experiments. For family reasons, Franziska decided to move to the Fraunhofer ITEM in Hanover in 2018, where she works as an animal house manager and head of testing for toxicological studies. Due to the virological research that is also carried out at Fraunhofer ITEM and the ongoing cooperation with the DPZ, Franziska was able to remain true to her original motivation, the combination of virological research and veterinary work. However, as a mother of two small children (*2017, *2020), she is currently not actively involved in the work.
Practice makes perfect if you want to become a journalist – Lennart Pyritz never had a defined career plan and his heart beat equally for science and journalism. He therefore combined his two passions early on and produced texts about trips abroad during his studies in Bolivia and wrote a blog for Spektrum.de when he traveled to Madagascar to collect data for his PhD in the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit. It was only towards the end of his doctorate that he fully decided to pursue a career as a science journalist. After his doctorate, he completed a three-month internship in the knowledge editorial department of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, followed by an internship at "Quarks & Co" at WDR in Cologne and an internship of several months at ZEIT Wissen in Hamburg. From 2012 to 2015, Lennart completed a science journalism traineeship at Deutschlandradio and then became a junior program contributor at Deutschlandfunk. In the same year, Lennart began his job as a freelance editor, presenter and author in the science editorial department of Deutschlandfunk, where he still works today. Lennart does not regret his decision to pursue a career in journalism rather than science. His work is very diverse, as he presents and edits various programs, produces articles and reports on different topics and is often on the road as part of research work or interviews. The proximity to exciting fields of research such as biology, medicine, physics and chemistry, which fascinated him as a student, has also stayed with him.