My name is Selamu Temesgen and I am 32 years old. I am a PhD student at the Institute for Applied Biopolymer Research (ibp) at Hof University of Applied Sciences. My current PhD program is part of an international collaboration, where I can spend half of my PhD time in Germany and the other half at my home university in Ethiopia. This is supported by funding from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).
Good reputation of the German education system
When I dreamed of working as a PhD student, I looked for countries and universities where I could realize my dream. I chose universities in Germany because of the good reputation of the German education system, which puts a lot of emphasis on practical parts of education. After that, I searched for a potential doctoral supervisor.
During this time, I visited the website of Hof University of Applied Sciences for the first time. Here I found Prof. Dr. Michael Nase as a possible supervisor for my PhD proposal, as he has a lot of experience with my research topic. So I contacted him by email and we exchanged and regularly. Finally, fortunately, he accepted my proposal and agreed to supervise my PhD thesis.
At the beginning of my stay, I was afraid of the language barrier. I thought that language and the cultural differences would challenge me a lot. When I arrived at the Berlin airport, my current supervisor, Dr. Mirko Rennert, was waiting for me there and brought me personally to Hof. He immediately showed me an amazing sympathy and treated me so kindly that I soon lost all my fears. Moreover, the team members of my research group and the professors all speak good English. Nevertheless, they motivated me to learn German. All of them have made my stay in the courtyard very easy and nice so far.
Research for environmentally friendly fibers
During my time at Hof, I will conduct many experiments that are needed for my PhD thesis. My work is focused on making sustainable and biodegradable polymer fibers from starch and/or starch-polymer blends. Most textile fibers based on synthetic polymers are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. Therefore, researchers worldwide are working to replace these plastics with sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. As a researcher, I am willing to contribute to the development of these sustainable and environmentally friendly materials in the form of fibers.
Working in a dedicated team
To achieve this, I am currently working with a dedicated and friendly team at the Institute for Applied Biopolymer Research (ibp) in Hof, Germany, to produce synthetic polymer chips and polymer pellets from starch – the most abundant, cost-effective and biodegradable material.
Our ultimate goal is to produce fibers from the polymer chips. The fibers to be produced will replace synthetic fibers that are currently petroleum-based – such as polyester and nylon. The latter currently still represent over 40% of the synthetic fiber market. The long-term plan of our research is to make the fibers suitable for many technical applications by improving their performance through various mechanisms and technologies.
Looking forward to a summer after Corona
Of course, the current situation in Hof is difficult because of the pandemic. I haven’t met many friends, but my roommate is a good person and we can talk and exchange opinions.
When normal life returns in the summer, I’m looking forward to spending nice moments with friends and co-workers. I really want to learn more about the culture of Germany and of course improve my German. I also want to see more of Hof and other cities. In my opinion, very typical for Germany are the very neat work, punctuality, commitment and rules.
My advice to students who plan to spend a semester in Hof is: plan your work clearly in advance. You can always turn to your supervisors with confidence and you should follow the rules. In general, Hof is a beautiful city with friendly people.