Germany is well known for its large investments in research and development. According to data from Destatis (2019), spending in the R&D sector exceeded 110 billion euros in 2019 alone. This is just one of the reasons why the German research landscape attracts so many researchers from Germany and other countries around the world.

The country’s high research and development budget is also supported by more than 1.000 public and publicly funded institutions for science and R&D—in which many are open for anyone to participate. You also have the opportunity to meet more than 434.000 researchers from different fields and research institutions in Germany. As a result, the research environment in Germany has grown further than ever before.

To further promote Germany as a research destination, DAAD Regional Office Jakarta has appointed several researchers to become our Research Ambassadors beginning in 2019. The Research Ambassadors are senior academics and scientists who have a long-standing relationship with Germany. As DAAD alumni, they have studied or researched in Germany and are familiar with the German higher education system through their own experience.

After 2 years, we have grown the network extensively and currently have 6 new Research Ambassadors to promote research in Germany. This time, we engaged researchers from both the western and eastern parts of Indonesia to further promote research in Germany. Our new Research Ambassadors are:

  • Prof. Dr. Faizal Arya Samman from Hasanuddin University, Makassar
  • Prof. Dr. Heri Kuswanto from Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, Surabaya
  • Prof. Dr. Iwan Rudiarto from Diponegoro University, Semarang
  • Dr. Margaretha Z. Pangau-Adam from Cenderawasih University, Jayapura
  • Dr. rer. medic. Muhammad Ichwan from the University of Sumatera Utara, Medan
  • Dr.-Ing. Rudi Kurniawan from Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh

We recently interviewed our new Research Ambassadors to learn more about their expertise, research, and activities during their time in Germany. Let’s get acquainted with our new Research Ambassadors.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Faizal Arya Samman

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

My name is Faizal Arya Samman. I am a faculty member of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Hasanuddin University in Makassar. I lived in Germany from 2002 to 2010, where I completed my doctoral studies at Technische Universität Darmstadt which was funded by a DAAD Scholarship. My research interests lie in the fields of electronic systems design, digital computer architecture, and systems-on-chip. I am currently working on an ongoing research project that focuses on power electronics applications for renewable energy systems and electric vehicles.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

Germany is a land of ideas with a long history of scientific tradition and innovation. Its pharmaceutical, chemical, electronic, and automotive industries have produced so many high-quality products and as a result, attracted students from all around the world to come and study.

Germany boasts excellent funding support for science and innovation that is provided not only by the government but also by various industries within the country. Although not directly related, German universities are also free of tuition fees—which adds another impressive reason to study and research in Germany.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

Almost all of my research experiences have been memorable, but one that stayed a lot on my mind was when I was doing my research at Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability, conducting research collaboration with Technische Universität Darmstadt as well as other higher educational institutes and industries.

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

Before finding a supervisor or a research partner, make sure that they are qualified and experienced in the field that you have chosen, and have provided a plan for the research project. It also helps if you already have a great research proposal ready.

Finding or approaching German research partners is no easy task. But it is a reflection on the qualifications that one should have. Stay optimistic and keep trying. As long as our research interests are in line with the German professors’, then there is always room for discussion to establish research connections.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

Prepare a good research proposal. Ensure that the research objective is clear and challenging. Research goals should be driven to find a novel idea or breakthrough in science and technology.

When you begin your research, you need a strong determination to reach your goals according to the schedule that has been set. You need to be active, follow proper schedules, and be disciplined. Remember to improve on your qualifications and learn something new during the research period. If you have a new idea, feel free to discuss it as it may give you a better understanding of things.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Heri Kuswanto

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

My name is Heri Kuswanto, a Professor in Computational Statistics at the Department of Statistics, Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS). I am also an active researcher at the Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change at ITS. I have been focusing my research on weather and climate modeling, machine learning as well as econometrics forecasting. I am currently working on investigating the impact of Solar Radiation Management on hydro-climatic extremes in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia. The project is funded by The World Academy of Science (TWAS) and UNESCO through The Developing Country Impacts Modelling Analysis for SRM (DECIMALS) project. Since 2020, I have been appointed as the Director of Postgraduate Program and Academic Development at ITS. I am also an elected member of the Indonesian Young Science Academy (ALMI) 2021.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

I would say that Germany is a perfect place for conducting research. German institutions provide complete materials (literature, equipment, etc.) that we need to carry out perfect research. The academic atmosphere and research environment support us in achieving high-quality research outcomes. What I know so far is that German professors are also very professional, helpful, wise, and possess deep expertise in their fields.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

I could never forget the German people’s professionalism and the country’s excellent working environment. My doctoral supervisor was very professional, kind, and helpful. My friends at the institute were more than just colleagues to me, they were also “a family”. They were so nice, and we supported each other. This made my time researching in Germany so much more enjoyable. I also really appreciate the amount of literature available for us to peruse back then. I had access to almost all of the journals that I needed, and it greatly enhanced my research.

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

Finding a doctoral supervisor and research collaborator is an important step for someone who is looking to conduct research in Germany. There might be several ways to locate a supervisor or research partner in Germany, depending on your situation.

The first case is when you have no previous contact with a German professor. This is exactly what I experienced when I applied for the DAAD Doctoral scholarship.

What I did was the following: I searched on the internet for a list of universities in Germany with institutes (such as the Institut für Statistik) or research centers that match my research field. Once I acquired the list, I visited the web pages of each institute/research center to learn more about the professors” research interests. I sent an email (inquiring about their availability to supervise my doctoral studies) to several professors starting from the one who has the most similar research interest with my research plan. If I haven’t received any reply within two weeks (although normally the professor will still send a reply to inform us they could not supervise our study plan), I sent an email to the second professor on my list, and so forth until a professor said he or she was willing to supervise my doctoral study plan. Please make sure that you write an impressive email and portfolio. Note also in your email that the research topic you proposed is subject to further discussion.

Another way is to ask your colleague/senior who has previous contact/research with a German professor, providing you have one. Ask him or her to introduce you to the professor.

When you possess a certain experience in a specific field, then you can join a project and work together with a German professor—whatever your role may be. Of course, if you are in this situation, everything will be easier. You can then send an email directly to the professor to convey your interest to undertake doctoral studies under his or her supervision.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

Keep on the lookout for information on research opportunities in Germany. This information can come from many sources. In our capacity as DAAD research ambassadors, we will also help you disseminate any information that might prove to be useful. Learn basic skills that German research institutions might need such as language proficiency. Never give up—try to motivate yourself in achieving your goals. Once you believe it in your heart, it will come true.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Iwan Rudiarto

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

My name is Iwan Rudiarto, a professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Universitas Diponegoro, Indonesia. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Universitas Diponegoro, Indonesia, in 1998 and received an M. Sc. in Land Management and Land Tenure from Technical University of Munich in 2005 and completed my doctoral studies at the University of Hohenheim in 2010. My areas of expertise are related to rural planning and development, rural resilience, environment, and land management. Currently, I am teaching and supervising students in bachelor, master, and doctorate programs in Urban and Regional Planning at Universitas Diponegoro. I am now actively involved in The Global Centre of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS) as an advanced researcher and representative of Indonesia. GCSMUS is one of 12 Excellence Centres for Exchange and Development (exceed), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with its coordination base at the TU Berlin and connects close to 50 partners across eight world regions. Currently, I am also serving as the President of the Indonesian Planning Schools Association (IPSA), the association that covers all bachelor, master, and doctorate programs in Urban and Regional Planning in Indonesia.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

In my opinion, choosing Germany as a research destination is the right decision as there are nearly 400 higher education institutions ready to accommodate researchers. Supported by a strong academic atmosphere, Germany is a leading country in the European Union that places research-based education with a sufficient allocation of funds for both basic research and applied research from public and private funds.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

What I remember the most during my time researching in Germany was my participation in various conferences. The professor, as our research supervisor, always supported doctoral candidates to present their current research (for example, sharing an update or research findings) in various seminars as well as international conferences.

Another thing that I found important is the opportunity to meet colleagues from different nationalities in the university research groups. I believe this is an important key to building networks with other countries. I have been working hard to maintain this network even now after I returned home. I also learned a lot about discipline, I learned how the German people always follow the rules, plans, and punctuality in all aspects of life.

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

One key to finding a supervisor or research partner in Germany is through networking or the connections that we have. We can build this network during our study or research in Germany, either in the university where we learn and do research or with partners from other universities or institutions. If you haven’t begun networking with others, you can use the internet to look for websites as the first source of information in identifying supervisors with the same topic of interest. Also, a supervisor with a high interest or connection to Indonesia will be an advantage. We can obtain this information from their publications and research history.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

For those interested in pursuing their research in Germany, my first advice is that they should take a look at the information available on related websites, such as www.daad.de and https://www.research-in-germany.org/en/. Other than that, you can contact DAAD Regional Office Jakarta or through us, the DAAD Research Ambassadors. I believe the experience that the Research Ambassadors have will provide you with more insight into studying and researching in Germany.

Interview with Dr. Margaretha Z. Pangau-Adam

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

I am Margaretha Pangau-Adam, a senior lecturer and researcher at the Department of Biology, Cenderawasih University, Jayapura, Papua. I received my doctoral degree from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Goettingen in 2003 and continued my postdoctoral studies in Germany from 2011-2014. My research interests include tropical forest management, population ecology and in-situ conservation, wildlife monitoring, and community-based co-management of sustainable use and nature conservation. Currently, I am assisting the regional coordination of the DAAD University partnership program, entitled “Integrating Forest Management with Biodiversity Education in Papuan Universities”. Through this program, we try to support, assist, and strengthen local communities in managing their forest areas. I am also working on an ongoing research project, which is focusing on studying population ecology and the distribution range of introduced rusa deer in Papua as well as their impact on forest regeneration and competition with the Papuan native herbivores. In 2019 to 2021, this research project was funded by the GIZ-FORCLIME.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

In my opinion, Germany has become one of the world’s top destinations for research and studying. The country has a wide-ranging, innovative, and diverse research landscape with a stable framework condition for science and research activities. German universities, higher education institutions, and non-university research centers offer the very best conditions for international researchers with a variety of funding opportunities and scholarships. Germany is currently seen as being more attractive for research scientists as well as students because its education system is free of tuition fees in almost all of its states.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

There are many unforgettable experiences. During my time studying in Germany, the main doctoral supervisor, or the so-called Doktorvater, as the name tells, was taking care of his students as if we were his own children. He sought to provide financial support until I completed my doctoral studies as my scholarship had run its course⁠. It was a helping hand that I will forever be grateful for.

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

Be more active in seeking collaboration possibilities and academic contacts with scientists and professors in Germany. There is sufficient information available online. Usually, there are some centers and international offices at the universities in Germany. Find out the contact person and try to communicate with them. They may provide information and even help you find potential supervisors or research partners. If you already have existing contacts or networks, do not hesitate to communicate and ask them for any support in finding supervisors. Look for information by asking members of the German Alumni Club, your colleagues who are also German alumni as well as DAAD research ambassadors.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

First, you should have concrete and specific ideas for your research, and it will be better if you already prepared a brief research proposal. Try to find collaborative partners that share your research interest. Write them a short and compact email. The professors in Germany have much work to do and many of them do not have enough time to read a long email. If one scientist or professor rejected your proposal, try again with other scientists/professors. Try and try again, don’t give up.

 

Interview with Dr. rer. medic. Muhammad Ichwan

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

My name is Muhammad Ichwan. I am currently working as Assistant Professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, the University of Sumatera Utara in Medan. I am also the Program Director of the Biomedical Sciences Master’s Program in the same faculty. I finished my doctoral studies at Kempermann’s lab at TU Dresden in the field of Neurogenesis and Natural Compounds from plants. I continued studying this field by establishing a research group on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which also includes many colleagues with expertise in neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry histology, and pathology. The research group encompasses subject matters such as in-vitro, animal, and clinical studies. To support animal studies, we are constructing an animal facility in the medical faculty as well as analyzing several disease models such as diabetes, hypertension, aging, stress and depression, and stimulant addiction. We also applied behavioral tests and analyses in rodents such as the Morris Water Maze test, Novel Object Recognition Test, and Forced Swim Test. Our ongoing task is to observe the effect of Channa and Centella Asiatica extracts on cognitive performance and well-being in the elderly. The project also includes community service activities and involves partners from the industry. Additionally, I am currently supervising several master’s and doctoral thesis projects with topics related to the role of plant extracts and herbs in neurology and psychiatry disorder in the animal model.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

I absolutely agree with the “Germany – Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen)” motto. I felt free in selecting the academic courses that are necessary for my project or my interests. As I was writing my thesis, I was fortunate enough to have received valuable financial support, supervision, and scientific input, in addition to collaborative and social support from other groups. I looked back and remember that time to be a productive and pleasant one. Besides research excellence, Germany offers a convenient environment for researchers with families. The German people are warm-hearted and they care a lot about their families. They are curious about other foreign cultures and appreciate the differences that we all have. The German government also supports the integration between foreigners and locals by providing affordable cultural and language courses.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

I chose the role of apple compounds in neurogenesis as the research topic for my dissertation. I learned a lot about apple cultivation in the Dresden area. I even attended a famous apple exhibition in Dresden to learn more about this subject. Now I can say I know more about apples compared to my German colleagues. I can also talk about apples and their natural compounds confidently in front of other people. What’s more, I was dubbed “the Apple Guy” by the guys in the lab! I found this experience to be unforgettable and I definitely would not have had this knowledge in Indonesia. This is my most memorable research experience in Germany.

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

The best way to find supervisors in Germany is by learning more about their published works. If you find a research article interesting and it matches your research interest, you can then look up through Google to find out more about the research group and its principal investigator. You can easily find their email address in the paper and start corresponding with them. It would be even better for you if the city the institute is in is known as a nice place to live (depending on your preferences). There you can contact the Indonesian students association to acquire more information.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

My advice to those looking to research in Germany:
Plan your research well. Talk to your mentor (supervisor) and colleagues. Always discuss any progress or obstacles that you have. Don’t waste your time by troubleshooting the problem alone. People are willing to help you if you are active in social interactions
Learning the German language is a great advantage for social integration in the laboratory and around the neighborhood. This will make life significantly easier and enjoyable.
Don’t forget to enjoy life. Germany is much wider and more beautiful than in a picture on your desktop or laboratory desk 😉

 

Interview with Dr.-Ing. Rudi Kurniawan

Can you introduce yourself and give a little bit of information about your area of expertise? (For example: what are your current academic activities, research topics, ongoing projects, etc.?)

My name is Rudi Kurniawan, a lecturer at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh. I received my master’s degree and doctoral degree in mechatronics—an interdisciplinary field that combines mechanics and electronics—from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. We know that Industrial Revolution 4.0 and mechatronics play an important role in world development today. While studying abroad in Germany, I learned how to apply mechatronics to robotics and built cable robots for logistic applications together with my team. We made our equipment from nothing as well as designed and developed each robot component ourselves. After finishing my studies, I returned and became a lecturer at Syiah Kuala University. I realized that I needed to adapt the knowledge that I gained in Germany to the situation in Indonesia and the needs of its people.

I am currently working on several ongoing research projects. For the first project, my affiliation, Universitas Syiah Kuala, purchased the so called shaking table to simulate an earthquake motion. After that, we create building mockups to simulate how they behave during earthquakes. We have to be proud because the tools that we use are currently only available at Syiah Kuala University in Indonesia, for we are pioneers in tsunami and disaster mitigation research. Indonesia is the only country In the whole of Southeast Asia, besides Singapore, that has this tool.

In my second project, we built a small-scale tensile machine for testing single fibre of banana leaves. As we all know, Indonesia is blessed with many banana trees. In this research, we are attempting to study a single fiber of banana leaves to learn more about its tensile properties. We even assembled a tensile machine by ourselves. This could be a really important step forward for the research and development of natural fibers in Indonesia, a subject that has recently gained popularity among researchers. In the past, we had to go to the city of Kobe in Japan to perform these kinds of experiments. Now that we have the technology, we can do it all here.

I am also conducting a new research project on COVID-19. Recently, we received 3-year funding from a reputable institution. We are currently proposing a new Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning system to bring forth a new isolation room standard, which can hopefully help many COVID-19 patients. Since this is a new study, we have to completely create a control system, collect the data, design the system, etc.

To summarize, I believe that the knowledge I gained while studying in Germany has proven to be very useful here in Indonesia.

What do you think speaks about Germany as a research destination?

Germany is like a second home to me. Everyone knows the motto “Germany – Land of Ideas” and I firmly believe that to be true. In Germany, once you have an idea, you know exactly what you need to do to make it happen. We learn step by step how to achieve that: we design and meet people from the industry, and then meet other people who can help take our ideas further. We learn how to negotiate and follow the process to make it happen. I think that is also why many people in Germany founded their start-ups right after finishing their formal education—because they have what it takes to realize their ideas.

What was your most unforgettable research experience in Germany?

I learned never to give up! I remember I wanted to go back to Indonesia twice because I felt that I could not finish my studies and research in Germany. I even looked for a ticket to go back home. But I calmed myself, went to the university, and talked to my professor and colleagues. They supported me and suggested that I finish my studies before I go home.

What I am trying to say is, when you feel that you want to give up, you have to realize that you are not alone. When you are at your wit’s end, you can always talk to your professor and colleagues and they will help you find new motivations that can keep you going.

After I talked to my colleague about an issue that I found in my research, he said, “Okay, so that’s the problem”. He identified a solution to my problem and solved my predicament in just 10 minutes!

Do you have any recommendations on how to find supervisors or research partners in Germany?

This is a frequently asked question from anyone interested in doing research in Germany. The first thing you can do is send an email to the professor. If you do not receive a reply from the professor, please contact the senior researcher. Another way to contact the professors is through their secretary. You can send your email to his or her secretary.
Last but not least, if you still haven’t received any reply, you can call the professor by phone. I think calling the professor is a way to show that you are truly serious about your intentions.

You can also join a conference where the professor is planning to attend. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any difficulty in finding a supervisor during my master’s degree in German, but I gave this advice to my friend, and it works!

I believe that there is a standard procedure for communicating with a professor. Still, you have to be creative in finding out other ways of communication in order to get their attention.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to conduct research in Germany?

They have to define their goals before coming to Germany. Is it for a holiday or study or research? This is very important. In Germany, we are required to be independent, which means we have to first define our goals. We have to identify our goals, what we want to do, know whom we have to contact, and have a very clear research schedule during our time in Germany to get the best result. Otherwise, we would have wasted valuable time there.