How the Scottish manage research: internship at Fraunhofer CAP

© Fraunhofer IAF

Besides gaining insights into scottisch work life, Christina Lehmann also had the chance to experience the Scottish highlands and the friendly culture.

The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics CAP in Glasgow and Fraunhofer IAF form a close partnership – not only in scientific fields: in the scope of her dual studies of management in industry, IAF-employee Christina Lehmann gained insights into the administration processes at the Scottish partner institute. In our interview, she reports on her experiences between studies, professional work life and Scottish hospitality during her two-month internship at Fraunhofer CAP in Glasgow.

Founded in October 2012 as the first competence center of Fraunhofer UK Ltd., Fraunhofer CAP in Glasgow, Scotland, already ranks among the world’s leading research facilities for research and development of solid state lasers. Together with Fraunhofer IAF, the institute forms a close partnership for the development of novel photonic laser systems. Also in administrative matters, the institutes cooperate closely – this enabled the IAF-employee and student of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) to get to know the administrative processes at Fraunhofer CAP.

How and why did you decide on your sojourn in Scotland?

The dual study system, consisting of three-month theoretic periods at the DHBW in Villingen-Schwenningen, as well as practical periods in my company training centre Fraunhofer IAF, offers students the possibility to do an internship abroad. I considered the newly founded branch of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Scotland the perfect place for this internship – that’s how I came up with the idea of handing in my application. I was very lucky that Fraunhofer IAF was supportive of this further qualification. In accordance with the head of our institute, Prof. Oliver Ambacher, I introduced myself at Fraunhofer CAP – and thus had the chance to work in the Scottish institute’s administrative sector from the beginning of July to the beginning of September this year.

What motivated you to take this decision and which challenges did you have to face?

My main motivation was the improvement of my English skills. Foreign language skills, but also the international experience, are getting ever more important for professional work life. Especially with respect to the numerous international research cooperations of Fraunhofer institutes, it is helpful to provide good English skills. Additionally, it motivated me to foster my own independence through working and living in a completely unknown surrounding.
Besides the work in a new system and infrastructure, for example an open plan office, my daily challenge consisted in understanding my Scottish colleagues and expressing myself in a proper way.

What are scientists at Fraunhofer CAP working on?

Scientists at Fraunhofer CAP engage in the research and development of solid state lasers for applications in fields like energy, security, transportation, communication, environmental monitoring or health. Furthermore, novel laser systems are designed, tested and characterized in the laboratories of Fraunhofer CAP. Like everywhere at Fraunhofer, the scientists cooperate closely with industry and target their work to their customer’s and industry partner’s needs.

What were your tasks at Fraunhofer CAP?

The main focus of my tasks during my internship was set on controlling, for example I monitored and evaluated the working hours per project, as well as their graphical editing. Furthermore, I supported the secretary and worked in the fields of procurement, personnel and accounting. For these tasks, I could make use of my theoretical knowledge based on my studies, as well as my practical experiences from daily work life at Fraunhofer IAF. We also designed standardized guidelines for the employees – also in this area, the experiences from my previous work gave a valuable contribution.

What kind of infrastructures did you meet at Fraunhofer CAP?

Fraunhofer CAP is located on the grounds of the University of Strathclyde and has its offices in the »Technology and Innovation Centre« (TIC), new building which was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth in July. Everything is designed in a very modern and open way and offers the employees great conditions for working in the offices and the labs. At the moment, the Fraunhofer branch has about 25 employees – which, on the one hand, is great because it allows for short and direct coordination and communication processes between the colleagues, on the other hand,  the absence of one colleague easily can cause bottlenecks.

How would you describe Fraunhofer CAP in three words?

Modern – open – family-like

Which impressions of Fraunhofer CAP and of Glasgow are you taking home?

The work, the work environment and the colleagues were great and I really enjoyed the internship! The staff members of Fraunhofer CAP have a monthly After-Work-Meeting on Friday afternoons – they already invited me to join them in my first week, which made it easy to get to know people. All the Scottish I met were very friendly, open and helpful. At work I could ask anyone at any time when I didn’t know how to proceed. My colleagues gave me many useful advices for sights, events or small excursions. I am definitely very grateful for the opportunity to get to know the work, the country and the people in Scotland!

What was the highlight of your time in Glasgow?

To be honest, I experienced the whole nine weeks as a ‘highlight’! All the friendly and open people I met at work and in the city, the many good conversations, the interesting experiences at work and the beautiful surrounding of the Scottish Highlands turned every day into something special.

Did you find a favorite spot in Glasgow?

Yes – the »Glasgow Green«. That’s a parc in the middle of the city. The »Clyde Walkway«, a footpath along the river Clyde, leads through the greens. I enjoyed the atmosphere there and it was great to find some nature so close to the city.