What is the topic of your master’s thesis?
I study »Embedded Systems«, which combines hardware and programming. I work with the microelectronics department at Fraunhofer IAF in the field of radar systems. The radar of IAF currently works in such a way that it takes a measurement and the data is then analyzed on a separate computer. This takes time and prevents a real-time radar system. Since I have experience in several programming languages I am currently programming a microcontroller to enable on-chip signal processing. This makes faster calculations possible and it is of course much more comfortable to have a single device without the need of peripheral hardware.
Have you always been into electronics?
As a kid I was always interested in maths and physics. I also used to make small electronics devices such as lamps with my dad. Later in highschool I got good grades in maths and physics and so I thought that engineering might me a good fit. I also had the right environment – both my father and my brother encouraged me to follow my dream.
How did you come to decide you wanted to study in Germany?
I did my Bachelor’s degree on communication and electronicsin Egypt. In my last year I felt like I wanted to do something new and have new experiences. So I started looking for offers to study abroad. Germany is very famous for its engineering know-how and when I found the master's program in Embedded Systems it looked perfect. Plus, Germany is not that far away from Egypt and Freiburg is the warmest and sunniest city in Germany, too, so I’m very happy about that!
What is the difference between studying in Egypt and in Germany?
Embedded Systems is a mixture of electronics and hardware, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. However, in Egypt there weren’t very many offers to study this. Generally speaking, in Germany there is more focus on practical applications and on showing students hands-on work in the lab, which I enjoy. In Egypt it’s not common to do internships, the studies there are more theoretical. It is also more strict in the sense that in Egypt you have a fixed amount of credits that you need to finish each year and when you study something it is expected of you to finish it. I feel that in Germany people are more open towards changing studies when they notice that their talents lie elsewhere.
We have much fewer women pursuing a career in the natural sciences than men in Germany. Why do you think that is?
I was very surprised by this. In Egypt there are also much fewer women who pursue a career in engineering; maybe 10% of students at my university were female. But I expected there to be a lot more women engineers in Germany. That’s the image that I had. Women’s rights are very strong in Germany and it’s not logical to me why there would be fewer women in engineering than men.
»I would absolutely encourage women to try out a career in natural sciences. It’s so much fun and natural sciences are a huge part of our everyday life. If you feel that you have a talent in those areas, don’t be discouraged by other people saying it’s hard. When I studied electronics in Egypt people told me that it was the hardest major in the whole university. This worried me a bit, but I was so interested in electronics that I decided to do it anyway – and I’m so happy I did!«
You do a lot of charity work. Why is that important for you?
I got into this in Egypt. We had some extracurricular activities at university where we organized free courses in IT or programming for students who could not afford them outside of university. I also taught English to young people in Egypt. I enjoy giving back.
When I came to Freiburg I met the grandfather of a friend who is also an engineer. He is 84 years old and I visited him and helped him with shopping, for example. He told me so many interesting stories about his life as an engineer and I could feel that being in contact with younger people was very enriching for him, too. So now I am trying to do more work with senior citizens.
How do you like Freiburg?
I really like the city and I would like to stay here. I am originally from Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and I’ve seen big cities like Berlin. But I like the mix in Freiburg – it’s small enough so you can get everywhere quickly, but large enough that there is a wide cultural offer. I also love the nature, the mountains for example, which I didn’t have in Egypt. Freiburg has everything I want from a city.
Sara Albazany took a course with IAF’s deputy director Dr. Rüdiger Quay on radio frequency devices at the University of Freiburg and subsequently started writing her Master’s thesis at Fraunhofer IAF. The title of her thesis is »Embedded programming of 100 GHz radar modules«.