A Year Full of Discoveries: Our First Voluntary Social Year in Science, Technology, and Sustainability

June 07, 2024

Last year, the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society offered for the first time a Voluntary Social Year in Science, Technology, and Sustainability (FJN). In cooperation with the International Youth Community Service (ijgd), we provided young adults with the opportunity to gain practical experience in the natural sciences while also orienting themselves professionally.

Insights into Pia's Year at the Fritz Haber Institute

Among the participants was Pia, who decided after graduating from high school to take a year to figure out which course of study was right for her. Pia was faced with the difficult decision of whether to study chemistry or physics. Her year with us helped her make that decision. She joined us with the goal of learning more about practical work in the fields of physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. During her year with us, she was not only able to deepen her programming skills in Python but also gained valuable insights into the daily life of scientists. Exchanging ideas with PhD students and other researchers helped her collect valuable tips for university life and understand a wide range of perspectives.

From Theory to Practice

Pia's practical experiences were diverse and enriching. Particularly noteworthy was her participation in a project in the Department of Theory, where an interactive web frontend for server-based scientific simulations was developed. This project, in collaboration with the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (BHT), allowed her to gain insights into the interface between computer science and physics and expand her skills in software development.

Furthermore, working in the scientific departments and workshops enabled her to develop a better understanding of the practical application of physics. By participating in projects, such as setting up mirrors for laser experiments or developing small games in the E-Lab, she was able to demonstrate her technical skills while gaining insights into the various work areas of the natural sciences.

Networking and Personal Development

An important aspect of her year was building a professional network. Pia emphasizes the importance of networking, especially for women in science. The seminars and workshops on topics such as sustainability, organized by the ijgd, as well as the seminars independently organized by the FJN participants, also offered an excellent platform for exchange with other volunteers.

Conclusion and Outlook

Looking back, Pia considers her Voluntary Social Year at the Fritz Haber Institute to be an enriching experience that not only helped her sharpen her academic and professional goals but also enabled valuable personal development. The decision between chemistry and physics became easier for her after this year; she has decided to study physics in Leipzig and feels well-prepared for the challenges ahead.

The Fritz Haber Institute is proud to have been part of Pia's journey and looks forward to continuing to offer young people valuable experiences and guidance through the FJN program in the future.

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