The University of Münster launched the "Women in Research" (WiRe) scholarship in 2018 to inspire more women to pursue a career in science. The programme supports excellent international female scientists from the PostDoc level onwards in the "rush hour of life" - the balance between academic career and family. An important component of the WiRe programme is supporting the female fellows in professional science communication. So far, 15 female academics have received funding and conducted research at Münster University for several months. This year, the female scholarship holders received a so-called "Research@Home" scholarship due to corona, in which they get in touch virtually with colleagues at Münster University. The archaeologist Dr Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider from Poland and the chemist Dr Leyre Marzo from Spain give an insight into their current research and report on what the scholarship means to them.
Connecting the past with the present and the future
By Dr Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider
For my research, I regularly go on a search for traces of the ancient world and study archaeological, epigraphic and historical aspects of the religions of the Middle East in the period from the 1st to the 3rd century BC. Since October I have been working on the Greek inscriptions from Jerash, ancient Gerasa, a city in northern Jordan. Together with my mentor at Münster University, Achim Lichtenberger from the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Christian Archaeology, I examine different stone materials with texts - for example blocks, altars, parts of architecture and statues - found at many sites in the ancient city. The tablets contain engravings with the names of the inhabitants of Jerash. Among others, I would like to find out: Who were the citizens of Gerasa, what proportion of Semitic, Greek and Roman names did they have, what professions did they represent?
Other research topics I am currently investigating include a study of the mysterious god "Pakeidos", who was worshipped in Gerasa - but is mentioned in only a few texts. The other study concerns the cult of the god "Bel" and his divine son "Nabu" in the Middle East from the time of Alexander the Great, from the 4th century BC, to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD.
I am often asked: Why do you occupy yourself with old stone heaps and long forgotten languages? Especially in today's time - dominated by technical progress - I find it important to transfer knowledge about the ancient world and to point out processes that characterised the ancient societies and can still be observed today. My work tells a lot about the roots and identity of the people who lived then and connects the past with the present and the future. The preservation of ancient monuments as material signs of human history and reference - especially in turbulent times of wars - is therefore a central concern of mine.
The Wire scholarship allows me great flexibility in combining family and career. The scholarship gives me official university membership and access to the virtual libraries of the University of Münster. For me, this is a great opportunity to integrate previously unknown material into my research and to develop connections to other places in the Middle East. Through regular virtual meetings with Achim Lichtenberger, we are planning joint publications; for example, a paper on the cult of the god Pakeidos is currently being planned. In addition, I am leading a seminar on the archaeology of the ancient cities of Palmyra, Hatra and Dura Europos in the coming summer semester - whether digital or in presence is still open. However, I would be very happy to come to Münster.
New teaching and learning concepts for photocatalysis
By Dr Leyre Marzo
As a chemist I work in the field of photocatalysis. This involves chemical reactions or transformations that takes place upon irradiation with visible light in most of the cases. Already more than a hundred years ago, the famous Italian photochemist Giacomo Ciamician was concerned with the need to develop renewable energy sources in order to minimise the consumption of fossil fuels. Since then, photochemistry has become one of the classic areas of synthesis, offering various approaches to carry out chemical transformations under environmentally friendly conditions. Its societal importance is my main motivation to continue designing new photocatalytic transformations and working to understand what is exactly going on behind them.
However, despite the scientific and societal interest, it is not common to find the study of photocatalysis in the curricula of the degree in chemistry or even in master studies. That's why I use the WiRe scholarship primarily to develop new teaching and learning concepts for this field. Together with Prof. Olga García Mancheño from the Organic Chemistry Institute of the University of Münster, we are preparing a theoretical and practical course programme for Master's students on photocatalysis. The new concept will be published as a guideline in an international scientific educational journal. Scientists, students and teaching staff all over the world will thus have access to our findings.
Besides developing the teaching concepts, I am pursuing my own research line in order to make an academic career in the highly competitive Spanish system. Therefore, the scholarship offers me an ideal platform to expand my networking and leadership skills as well as to achieve academic independence. I hope to start a long-term scientific cooperation with Olga García Mancheño and to jointly advance excellent research in the field of photocatalysis.
Research@home fellowships for female top-level postdocs
The International Office's WiRe - Women in Research funding programme offers Research@home scholarships for excellent young women scientists in Covid-19 times. International, female postdocs who want to carry out a joint project with a professor at University Münster can apply, even without being on site: Separated workplaces - joint research! Apply now.