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Student-led virtual event strengthens Penn State-Freiburg Partnership

Jul 13, 2021

The Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems (LiMC2), in partnership with the University of Freiburg’s Cluster of Excellence for Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) recently hosted a graduate student-focused interactive workshop and poster session on June 21 to 22.

Elena Vazquez and Denise Widdowson, both doctoral students at Penn State, and Paula Straub and Jan Büttner, doctoral students at University of Freiburg, co-organized the event, which focused on fostering scientific exchange between graduate students at University of Freiburg and Penn State; building a student community with a focus on peer mentoring and networking; and exploring opportunities for exchange visits.

Day one of the event started with a brief introduction of both centers, and also included a poster session where livMatS and LiMC2 graduate students presented their research projects. Jürgen Rühe, director of the University of Freiburg Cluster of Excellence for Living, Adaptive and Energy- autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) and Zoubeida Ounaies, professor of mechanical engineering and director of LiMC2 provided welcoming remarks to event attendees.

“This event is dear to my heart, organized by and for students,” said Ounaies. “It allows for unique research and an awesome opportunity to achieve visionary, transformative research.” Rühe echoed this sentiment, stating he especially welcomed students and their efforts, and he encouraged the students to take advantage of the event to interact and collaborate.

Day two offered the students the opportunity to network further in small groups.

“It was exciting to see what common themes emerged between our research, and to share what opportunities we have moving onto our careers as researchers,” said Vazquez.

Widdowson noted how rewarding it was to build personal connections with other researchers and “really start thinking outside of our own bubbles to push the research even further.”

At the conclusion of the two-day event, professors Ounaies and Rühe pointed out unique opportunities for graduate students, post-docs and early career researchers to get involved in joint collaborations such as the Freiburg Rising Stars Academy, a Freiburg led initiative that aims to connect qualified international early career researchers to Freiburg scientists.

In addition to exploring exchange opportunities, this two-day event was successful in initiating discussions and identifying common research themes and complementary research methods and techniques.

“I think we are all working in an inspiring environment and the exchange between us will help facilitate our common goal, making the world a more sustainable place by combining the best of two worlds – nature and technology,” said Büttner.

“I am excited to see which scientific opportunities arise from the relationship between our two centers,” said Straub.

For more information on research in the center, visit the ( text: LiMC2 website target:_blank) or contact Ounaies at LiMC2 is supported by Penn State's Materials Research Institute and the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.