Pictures: [1, 3] H. Schmidt;  P. Bal
Kevin Hermanns is a research associate and is currently conducting research into the energy revolution. He examines the question of how high-voltage direct current systems can affect other technical systems and possibly interfere with them. But the enthusiasm for the research field of energy technology goes much further: Together with Philipp Kappes, Alexander Sauer and other colleagues, he is also responsible for the Association of Friends of the Institute for Power Electronics and Control of Drives (SRT) at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. „The association is now in its 21st year and we are still enjoying it,“ reports Kevin Hermanns, the association's second chairman, „In addition to field trips to companies and non-university research institutions, we organize a regular series of lectures on current topics such as the energy revolution or electronics in space travel and explicitly invite external researchers and industry representatives. This is how we want to combine research at the university with business practice.“
Networking of alumni, students and industry
Networking with former students, industry representatives and the Department's research groups is also an important task in the EMKlub: the Association of Friends of the Institute of Electromechanical Design at the TU Darmstadt e.V. – EMKlub for short – organises a colloquium around four times a year at which alumni report on their career entry and career paths. „The colloquium is very important to us because it also gives students an authentic view of the world of work and the knowledge and skills required there,“ reports Dr. Robert Jung, first chairman of the association. „We currently have around 300 members, about half of whom are students. We offer a free membership to all students who have chosen a corresponding specialization. In this way, students benefit from our network right from the start.“ In addition to networking, the association promotes research and teaching in the specialist areas: Costs for field trips, trade fair visits or other activities worthy of support are subsidised or covered by the EMKlub. The association also offers an annual prize for outstanding bachelor's and master's theses, each of which is rewarded with 250 euros. However, the annual PEM final competition in the seminar „Practical Development Methodology“ (PEM) is particularly important in the field of teaching. „PEM has been an established player in the training business for many decades. Because students not only have to learn development methods in practice, but also successfully present their development projects, PEM is particularly important for preparing them for an engineer's professional life. Therefore the association EMKlub supports this seminar – this year with a “PEM After-Show-Party„, says Dr. Robert Jung. Also many alumni of the research groups remain with the association: On the EMKlub day, the association organizes a field trip to the companies and firms that employ former students in order to establish local networks between alumni, companies and students.
For a vibrant culture in the research group
But not only the serious topics like successful studying and a good preparation for the career start are tasks of the associations. Through their commitment, they also ensure a working and study atmosphere worth living in at the institutes and research groups. “In addition to all the field trips, lectures and non-university training courses that we offer for students of power electronics and power engineering,„ says Alexander Sauer of the SRT Friends, “we also see ourselves as responsible for ensuring a vibrant culture at our institute". Not only the Electronic Autumn Festival with onion cake and Federweisser is organised every year by the SRT friends, but also the Energy Technology Spring Festival, which in May brings together around two hundred students, professors and alumni from the fields of energy technology as well as the scientific staff, thus promoting mutual exchange beyond the boundaries of the respective fields. This contribution is particularly important to the SRT friends.
The Summer Festival of the Lighting Technology research group is also one such event. Once a year, the Association of Friends of the Research Group Lighting Technology invites all members to a sociable exchange, reunion and get-together. And the friends of lighting technology are also otherwise involved in research and teaching: for example, the association financed high-quality measuring and laboratory technology, further equipment for the field or the very well attended and extremely entertaining Christmas lecture.
Most members of the Association of Friends of the Research Group Lighting Technology are current scientific and administrative staff and alumni. „But because legal entities can also become members, some companies from the lighting technology and automotive industries are also active in our association“ says Max Wagner, research associate in the lighting technology research group. „This enables us to build up a network for the subject area and to pass on internships and job offers specifically to our students and graduates.
“Volunteering is super important!„
The SRT Friends also offer a very special service for students at the Institute for Power Electronics and Control of Drives: “In the last few semesters we have mentored a number of students: whether it is the placement of internships in industry or advice on starting a career. This is a field we would like to expand even further in the future,„ reports Kevin Hermanns.
The commitment of the associations is not only a relief, but also an important enrichment, for the professors who lead their respective research groups and, in addition to their research activities, meanwhile also perform a variety of management tasks. Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerd Griepentrog: “Research and teaching at a university only work in a team. Looking ahead, this means that we will have to pay more and more attention to attracting motivated and committed employees for research and teaching and at the same time will have to maintain contact with alumni in order to make it a little easier for our graduates to start their careers. With its commitment to the subject, students and alumni, the association creates a great network. Thank you very much for this important voluntary commitment!"