Dr.-Ing Alexander Nürnberg

Dr Nürnberg, you studied mechanical engineering at the TUHH and went on to obtain your PhD here. How has the TUHH changed since then?
In the Fall of 1983 I began my main course of studies in Marine Mechanical Engineering at the TUHH. Back then the Technikum was the only university building that had been completed. Parts of the hospital and all kinds of premises in the city center and Port area of Harburg were used for classes. Our semester consisted of 12 students.
Three came with preliminary diplomas from other universities and the others had already graduated from a university of applied sciences. We were the first year’s student intake to be taught at the TUHH. There were significantly more professors and assistant lecturers than students, and we enjoyed the attention that was paid to us.
There was a remarkable mood of change and a basic “yes, we can” sentiment at both the academic and the administrative level. Improvisation laid the groundwork for a successful start. We felt it was highly motivating. Today the TUHH has an outstanding infrastructure and has become an integral part of Hamburg. Everything is much more professional, larger, and different. That is a natural and necessary trend for a university that wants to remain in the premier league of technical universities.

Where did you spend your time as a student in Harburg?
In the mid-1980s Harburg had little to offer students. I can still remember the billboards in Eissendorf calling for “No University in a Residential Area!” So our status was somewhat exotic in those days. Specifically, I spent my time in the Technikum, in Harburger Schlossstrasse, and in Lauenbruch Ost. My leisure time was spent in Ottensen, which was just emerging as a trendy part of Hamburg.

How did your career progress after you graduated with a PhD in 1991?
On January 2, 1992 I started work as a development engineer at HATLAPA in Uetersen.
My mentor when I began my studies at the TUHH was my first boss. That’s how small the world can be! In 1994 I was appointed Head of Design, in 1995 Head of Production as well, and in 1996 Managing Director, which I still am. Even though I have now been working at the same firm for 22 years, no one day has ever been the same as another.

Good grades? Completing your studies in the regulation period? What matters for getting off to a successful career start?
My example is one of an unconventional approach. At school I took advanced courses in English and History, but with an average Abitur grade of 3.1 I would not find it easy to enroll as an engineering student today. I also took a remarkable ten semesters to complete my preliminary diploma – with a grade of 2.7. With today’s Bachelor’s program that would have been that! After a further four semesters I took my first degree with a grade of 2.0 and after a further four years I completed my PhD with a Very Good grade.
During my studies I worked a lot in industry and enjoyed taking on responsibilities. That made it easy for me to embark on a career, since when I have not done at all badly…

What, in your view, are the reasons for studying at the TUHH?
The TUHH is a modern, international university with clearly formulated performance standards. Its size enables students to make good personal contacts and the courses it offers are focused, thereby
enabling students to achieve a high level. What I also find remarkable is what it has to offer alongside academic considerations, such as in music, sport, or art. That is true quality of life.

Alongside your career commitments you are an active member of the alumni association and the TUHH foundation. What motivates you to undertake these commitments?
During my time at the TUHH my teachers were outstanding individuals to whom I owe a great deal. I have often compared our dealings with each other with those of the Greek philosophers and their students in the market places of Ancient Greece. The transfer of knowledge went far beyond the technical subject matter and the dialog honed my facility for thinking and understanding. Education is a very important good and I would like to make my contribution toward ensuring that it is provided in society.