Dr. Kristina Böhlke

Name, Surname: Böhlke, Kristina Nationality: German City, Country: Hamburg, Germany Study Program: Biotechnology, Ph. D. Position, Employer: Self-employed

Dr. Kristina Böhlke was born in Hamburg and spent parts of her childhood in Indonesia and the Netherlands. Her political commitment began at 16 and she founded a BUND nature conservation group, 10 years later she joined the SPD. After her TU doctorate, she switched to public administration, worked in the research ministry and finally became a state councilor in Hamburg before she became self-employed as a consultant and trainer.

“The Mind is Already Stretched to Capacity”

The Hamburg emotion trainer Kristina Böhlke on biology, the sense of body awareness, and her role as a mediator between politics and science.

You studied biology at the University of Hamburg. How did you then come to study for a PhD in biotechnology at Hamburg University of Technology and how did that influence where you went from there?

It was an elegant way to switch university without having to switch the city where I was studying. At Hamburg University of Technology’s Graduate College I discovered interesting environmental topics (the environment has always moved me), and at roughly the same time as I started work on my doctoral dissertation I was elected to the Hamburg regional executive of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). That influenced me and it became clear to me in the course of work for my PhD that I was interested in knowledge—not in every “grain of sand” on which to build my career but in the “beach of knowledge.” That is why it was logical for me to organize research for others. My role is basically that of an interpreter, translating between politics, administration and science.

What did you learn from your studies over and above purely subject-related aspects?

I owe a debt of gratitude to my doctoral supervisor, inter alia because he entrusted me with “non-doctoral” tasks. I coordinated with eight European partners an application to the European research framework program, for example. That was an enormous amount of work but I learnt a lot in the course of it. It was the basis of competences for which you are grateful sooner or later.

Did you make a conscious decision toward the end of your scientific career when you chose to work in a government ministry?

Yes, that was quite clear and my intention. I had begun to be bored with the subject of my dissertation and that is not a good sign. One of my role models is the environmental scientist Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, who once said you should do something new every five years. It was a good match for me that I was able to move to Berlin as a consultant at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

You took the five-year rule to heart and then spent five years as head of project management at the DESY research center in Hamburg.

I had just renewed my five-year contract there when Hamburg went to the polls in February 2011…

…the election in which the SPD won an absolute majority and Olaf Scholz became Lord Mayor of Hamburg.

That’s right. He asked me if I wanted to take up the position of State Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Research. I had previously been a member of the SPD’s Hamburg regional executive, chaired by Olaf Scholz, for several years. I could have carried on well without a political appointment, but the temptation to help shape science policy in Hamburg was of course enormous. So I couldn’t really refuse, especially as an offer of that kind isn’t one you receive every day of the week.

A year later you turned your back on politics. You were in poor health, suffering from burnout. Did you see that crisis as—in the final analysis—an opportunity?

I had resigned, and as anyone who is conversant with burnout knows, you aren’t suddenly healthy again, that takes time. I now think that destiny dealt me a blow for which I am duly grateful. It gave me an opportunity to think long and hard. Did I really want to carry on like that? I had spent fifteen very intensive years like a hamster in a wheel—without a break. And at some stage or other the body no longer forgives the sheer exertion.

What did you do?

I took training courses and learnt how to handle stress and conflicts. And then realized that in the future I wanted to focus on that kind of “emotion training” as a separate activity. In the final analysis I am now back to biology as a trainer—because I have always been interested in how human life functions. I recently registered my “Körper-Biologik” (Body Bio-Logic) trademark. It deals with inner leadership, or self-perception and self-control. Much of what I can now do and pass on to others would have been a great help to me back then. I believe it is because my body can sense very well if something is not right.

How does Körper-Biologik® work?

They say that between two people the chemistry must be right. In reality it’s the physics. Everyone has an aura or radiance, and radiation it is, physically speaking. The aim is to know your own body so well that you can distinguish. Does what I now sense or feel come from me or from you?

For whom are your courses suitable?

For anyone and everyone. At the city of Hamburg’s Center for Education and Training I offer training courses on, for example, “Emotionally Competent Leadership for Executives.” Or speakers come to me who want to demonstrate authentic emotions onstage. They would like, for instance, to tell a dramatic story without emotionally abusing or re-traumatizing themselves. My training courses are in principle all variations on working with the body. That is why I call it Körper-Biologik®. I practice with people how to regain their bodily emotional competence. I don’t offer advice on what to wear. My advice is on how I embody what I want to communicate. With your body posture you can influence inner bearing—and vice-versa.

Can you give us an example?

People very often tell me they must first write down what they are about to say. Yet it is much more important to consider what you want to radiate and prepare to do so physically. Once that is sorted you can be sure the right words will follow by themselves.

Do you have a motto for life or work?

“Let go of control, take over leadership!” My mission is to make people more self-aware, and I mean that physically. To deal with themselves more consciously and, building on that, to deal with where, for example, a bad mood comes from and whether that’s the way you want to be or you can reroute it. All of that happens at the physical, bodily level. Sooner or later, emotional blockades cause physical pain. That is why the body is important for me as an instrument—because the mind is already stretched to capacity. We are constantly making plans and to do lists, but the body knows better and can show us the way.  

What would you ask an omniscient research scientist from the future?

Has quantum physics taught us to understand better how it is that we know things that we cannot actually know? I knew, for example, that my grandmother had just died at the other end of the world.

What advice would you today with your experience give to students and young graduates?

Follow your passion. A decision taken directly after graduation is not the last word on the subject for your entire career. So don’t be afraid of first doing what is on offer and what you feel like doing. It is also important to delve really deep into a subject in whatever area, such as when working on a doctoral dissertation. I didn’t find it easy, but it was important for me.

If you were the President of Hamburg University of Technology what would be important for you?

Science must take an interest in what is going on in society and society should show an interest in scientific topics. What with climate change and pandemics we need science, and because we are currently experiencing them, science ought also be capable of communicating!

Berenice Eréndira Ortiz Alfaro

Name, First Name: Ortiz Alfaro, Berencie Eréndira Nationality: German/Mexican City, Country: Hamburg, Germany Study Program: International Production Management, MSc Position, Employer: Airbus Hamburg

“We want to shape the Future!”

You first studied in Mexico, how did you come to decide on a master’s degree at the TU Hamburg? I always wanted to do a master’s degree abroad. I compared the most interesting universities in Germany in the field of production management and the TU Hamburg program convinced me because of its quality and reputation.

What was your motivation for choosing this field of study and this profession? I wanted to study both mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. I also planned to work in production management in an international environment afterwards. I had already gained experience in this because I had previously worked in production at FAURECIA Puebla Mexico.

What was your career like after you left the TU Hamburg? I applied to various companies and was lucky enough to join Airbus in August 2006 as a Supply Chain Quality Manager in the purchasing department. That is the production management for suppliers.

What is the best thing about your current job? I love my job because I work in a very international environment. I communicate in four different languages ​​because I deal with a wide variety of people from different cultures and countries. In addition to German and English, these are French and Spanish. This internationality enables us to achieve valuable results for our customers every day.

What does a typical working day look like for you and what skills do you need for it? My days are always very different. They usually start with a meeting with my team or with other teams to coordinate the work. We act according to a clear performance management, we plan our projects and follow the milestones we have set. This requires the multilingualism already mentioned and a customer-oriented approach from me. Important skills that I have to bring with me are above all of a superordinate nature: to be resilient, to operate good conflict and feedback management and to treat everyone, the team, but also customers and suppliers, with respect.

What did you take away from the TUHH degree beyond your technical knowledge? The ability to work in an international team. To solve problems that arise from overcoming language barriers and always wanting to improve.

Where did you prefer to spend your time in Hamburg – besides your studies? On the Alster, where I learned to sail, and in Rotherbaum, where I played tennis.

Was there an unforgettable experience during your time at TU Hamburg? I particularly remember the ‘Day of Cultures’, when all foreign students were able to present their country and culture. There was a wide variety of dishes, some were dressed according to their country of origin, we made music and danced, and I met many people from all over the world in one place: on the campus of the TU Hamburg!

You are committed as a mentor to get more women interested in IT professions, what motivates you to do so? Including women and girls in MINT and IT professions is very important to me. We make up more than half of the world’s population, which means that we have to be much more represented in all of these areas. Only in this way can we be part of the decisions that our society makes and steer a development process that considers and reflects the opinions and needs of women. And only in this way can we be sure that we will actively shape the future and not be disadvantaged. According to the motto: “We want to shape the future”.

I would like to swap a day with … … Grazia Vittadini, our Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Airbus.

What would you ask an omniscient researcher from the future? Whether we women and girls will at some point have equal rights everywhere politically, economically and socially. Will this development be a reality at some point and if not, why not? Why does it fail?

If you were President of the TU Hamburg … … I would work with schoolgirls to get the young girls excited about MINT subjects and information technology. I would set up collaborations with schools and promote international exchange and create networks between women, industry, research and society.

Prof. Ingo Hadrych

Name, First Name: Hadrych, Ingo Nationality: German Stadt, Land: Buxtehude, Germany Study Program: Civil Engineering, Ph.D. Position, Employer: Präsident of the Buxtehuder hochschule 21

Don’t be afraid to tackle big issues

Why did you choose the TU Hamburg and your subject at the time?

My father was a self-employed architect, so I was not unfamiliar with construction. I also completed a degree in architecture at what was then the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, but quickly realized that the design subjects are more important to me than the design subjects. A degree in the relatively young civil engineering course at the TU Hamburg was an obvious choice – both the degree and the subsequent doctorate.

What was your career like after you left the TU Hamburg?

My topics of steel and timber construction prompted me to switch to the medium-sized construction industry at the Hamburg company HC Hagemann, which at the time was intensively involved in the renovation of riveted bridge structures. There I gradually grew into real estate project development. In 2017 I decided to work at a university. I took over the professorship for structural engineering and building informatics at the university 21 in Buxtehude. I have been the President of this university since October 2020.

What is the best thing about your current job?

On the one hand, I work in an academic environment, where I really enjoyed passing on knowledge and experience to students in the lectures, and on the other hand, in my role as President, I am now able to shape and shape this environment to a certain extent.

What does a typical working day look like for you and what skills do you need for it?

In these challenging Corona times and after such a short time in office, there is still no typical working day, but I can say so much: A very significant part is made up of communication with the various parties involved in a university, from students to colleagues in Academics and administration to various committees, such as the university senate.

What do you use from your studies for your job?

Of course, I still need my construction knowledge from my studies at a university of applied sciences with a large construction department. Above all, I also took along the ability to think analytically and in a structured manner. Bringing content into a clear structure, simplifying complex topics if necessary and prioritizing questions are things that are extremely important for dealing with non-subject questions.

What is your guide? Do you have a work or life motto?

You shouldn’t be afraid to tackle new topics and hurdles that might seem big at first – the others only cook with water. In addition, open and honest interaction is important to me, but always on a factual and non-personal level.

What kind of student were you? Nerd or party animal?

Even if it sounds boring, more the job-oriented nerd.

Was there an unforgettable experience during your time at TU Hamburg?

Two things come to mind very spontaneously: on the one hand, a day excursion to a bridge shift in Hesse with one of my professors at the time, during which we had to struggle with his somewhat aged vehicle and lubricating oil losses on the way, and on the other hand, a field test as part of a study project at where we carried out vibration measurements on a pedestrian bridge in Wilhelmsburg and hopping with several students to stimulate the bridge to vertical and torsional vibrations.

I would like to swap a day with …

… a scientist at Neumayer Station in Antarctica.

What would you ask an omniscient researcher from the future?

I would like to know whether the current pandemic situation will one day simply be an anecdote in history or whether it will change us and our coexistence in the long term.

If you were President of the TU Hamburg …

What would be important to me is overcoming the boundaries that I keep seeing in the university landscape, sometimes in the form of state borders between Hamburg and Lower Saxony, sometimes in the form of fear of contact or fear of competition between universities, technical colleges or private universities. After all, we all have a common goal, namely to advance teaching, research and further training.

“It is important to me to be open and honest.”

Marcus Keding

Nationality: German
City, Country: Vienna, Austria
Study Program, Degree: Process Engineering/ Dipl. Ing.
Year of Graduation: 2005
Employer and Position:  Managing Director, Forschung Burgenland

Why did you opt for the TUHH at the time and was it, with hindsight, a good decision?
The TUHH had a very good reputation at the time. Other factors were the personal atmosphere and the very attractive campus. I spent several years working for the student body and am still in contact with former fellow-students. The only problems I had were, for a long time, with thermodynamics. Eventually I sorted them out and worked for two years as a thermodynamics tutor. By learning the subject several times for exams I ended up knowing the subject really well 😉

What motivated you to choose that subject and this career?
I felt that the combination of chemistry and mechanical engineering was great. My dream back then was already to develop hydrogen storage for vehicles, and process engineering with a specialization in energy systems was the obvious choice. An important milestone was then, without a doubt, the time I spent as an assistant with Prof. Jobst Hapke at the Institute of Apparatus Engineering. I was able there to work at an early stage on highly exciting research projects in hydrogen storage and to do my diploma project there. That, indeed, was the entry ticket to my career.

Where, apart from your studies, did you most enjoy spending time in Hamburg and/or Harburg?
I often got together with friends and we made intensive use of the little spare time that we had. There were parties in our shared apartment, outings for freshmen and, as I vividly recall, there was downtown inline skating. There was even a direct inline skating route from Mönckebergstraße to Große Freiheit 36 for an after-skate beer. And then there was the Elbe beach at Övelgönne and the Strandperle bar; I still go there whenever I am in Hamburg.

What is the greatest about your job?
After graduation I failed to get a job in the automobile industry, but I had an exciting space research job offer in Vienna, and there I really was in charge of developing hydrogen storage systems – for satellites. It was a truly  exciting time in which I learnt a great deal and had a whole lot of design leeway. I went on to head and further develop the research group. Five years ago I was offered the headship of a study program at a technical college along with the position of joint managing director of the research subsidiary. Had it not been for my time at the TUHH I would never have considered taking up that challenge. For a year now I have been the sole managing director of a research company with a payroll of 40. My best  decision after completing my studies was definitely that of taking on the job that gave me the most design scope for my career.

What did you learn at the TUHH that you still use in your career?
My former fellow-students thought it was hilarious when I told them five years ago that I was back in the lecture theater but this time as the lecturer. I wasn’t exactly the student who passed every exam at the first attempt with flying colors. I now greatly appreciate the sound basic knowledge we were
taught in Hamburg. Thermodynamics is simply difficult and sometimes you need to listen twice to understand it. Later there are countless opportunities
to put it to good use. I also have great respect for the organization of a study program and a lecture. I now know just how hard and arduous it is to design a high-quality lecture and to organize a good class schedule.

What shape does your typical working day take and which competences do you require for it?
My day always begins at the coffee machine. I then go to my PA to discuss with her the meetings that lie ahead and to sign a slew of bills. The open and respectful way of dealing with people that I learnt from the professors at the TUHH is a great help in dealing with my present colleagues. After the first conversation I usually settle down to answer the most important e-mail. There too, prioritization is what counts. Otherwise my working day
largely consists of team meetings and discussions. Structured self-organization is the most important way to tackle very different tasks. I am also very active on a number of bodies and responsible for  the research company’s external impact and for communication with our stakeholders. Holding a Press may sound easy, but when it is you up there and journalists from regional newspapers and the regional TV channel are asking questions you need to be able to give straightforward answers. Improvisation is important too, of course, because there is never a time when everybody keeps to the plan. So my working day could hardly be more varied.

If you were President of the TUHH, …
… I would first say to myself “Marcus, that is just too much of a good thing.” I would then consider who was better suited for the job and nominate
him. As I have a good insight into the work of a university president I cannot imagine that post ever being in my resumé. But 13 years ago I would surely have said the same about my present position. So I should maybe best start looking into where I can best work on my doctoral dissertation… 😉