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For science and society

Whetting the appetite for science right from the start. In the future, this should be done much more systematically at Kiel University than before. It is all about craftsmanship and excellence.

students in the lab
© Jürgen Haacks, Uni Kiel

Studying close to research is also possible in the materials science department of the Faculty of Engineering at Kiel University.

"The foundations are laid in the early stages of study," says Professor Ilka Parchmann as she explains why Kiel University is focusing more on this topic. However, this is not about tutoring courses where school shortfalls are remedied. "These problems must be tackled in dialogue with schools," says the Vice President of Kiel University. After all, the ultimate goal is to send young people to study who are actually prepared for university with a university entrance qualification certificate.

No matter which subject is chosen, certain basic skills are always required. Scientific argumentation and writing skills are a focus in which the new generation learns what evidence actually means, when to fear fake news and how to deal with the boundaries between quoting and plagiarism. Another objective is to convey how scientific questions are structured and translated into mathematically sound models, for example. And finally, digitalisation is a topic that is becoming increasingly important for science in all its forms.

Ilka Parchmann defines the goal of this CAU Excellence Strategy in education as follows: "In the first year, students should familiarise themselves with all three areas related to their subject and be keen to apply these things". She is happy that it is not necessary to start from scratch. Thanks to the PerLe (project for successful teaching and learning) initiative, many examples have already been created which show that it works and how it works. Only the topic of digitalisation still needs to be fine-tuned. The issue here is how to deal with big data in science as well as the fascinating possibilities of visualisation and other contributions to new forms of understanding. 

Problems must be tackled in dialogue with schools,

Ilka Parchmann, Vice president

In principle, all these areas represent academic craftsmanship – and at the same time extend beyond it. Above all because the respective skills should not be taught as an end in themselves, but as an incentive to use them. "Taking things into your own hands," says Professor Parchmann and mentions the buzzword entrepreneurship. Students should enjoy becoming entrepreneurs, not only in the classical business sector, but also in the social, educational, scientific and other segments of society.

The "YooWeeDoo" project is a beacon in this respect. For eight years now, this competition which was created at Kiel University has been helping students who want to get involved in an entrepreneurial, social and sustainable way. "My Boo" with bamboo bicycles made in Kiel and Ghana. The urban beekeepers with their "Kiel Honey". The non-profit Goldeimer GmbH with eco toilets for festivals. The "Spülbar" project with a cargo bike converted into a rinsing station to prevent plastic waste at weekly markets. These are some of the well-known and successful initiatives from the "YooWeeDoo" competition, which began under the direction of Professor Christoph Corves from Kiel University's Department of Geography and now attracts founders from all over Germany.

There are also examples in Kiel of the efforts to bring the teachers together in a stronger exchange in order to make courses or seminars more exciting by combining their skills. Ilka Parchmann offers just such a seminar. The Professor of Didactics of Chemistry at the IPN Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education at Kiel University joined forces with her colleague Professor Norbert Stock from Inorganic Chemistry and developed a project within the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt (Kiel Research Workshop) on porous materials that can be useful as storage media or filters. The latest research on the one hand, didactic skills on the other. Together, this resulted in the students not only experimenting with great enthusiasm, but also making videos and developing other teaching materials, which were then actually used in practice.

In order to become even more of a University of Excellence in education, the University Board aims to create a qualified early study phase for all faculties and departments within five years, says Ilka Parchmann. "In this way science will benefit, but so will society as a whole".

Author: Martin Geist

International experiments

It was possible to expand international research projects like "GAME" with the aid of a successful excellence application - to include more content as well as a larger group of participants. Talented Master's degree students are now to work together with doctoral researchers at the start of their doctoral degrees to develop modular experiments on certain topics. Some of the project positions are to be awarded within Kiel University's partner regions, i.e. the San Francisco Bay Area/USA, Scandinavia and Hangzhou in China, which helps young researchers to build up networks. The experiments will be developed jointly on site at all of the locations involved and when completed, they will be presented at a Summer School to be held annually in Kiel. (jus)