Hybrid Materials – Structure-Function-Relationships

Which topics were covered in the lecture? Which focus was set?

The HYMAT seminar started with an introductory session providing a general overview of hybrid materials. During the following weeks, participants were supposed to use the recommended literature to gather further relevant information. The participants were then asked to name their favourite topics from HYMATs, prioritising three key themes. Based on this vote, groups were assigned (three to four people) and the assignment of coaches was made. In WS 2019/20, the five major topics covered were:

  • Synthesis & Characterisation
  • Photophysics of HYMATs
  • Interrelation of disorder, defects, and functions of HYMATs
  • Mechanical properties of HYMATs
  • Electrical & thermal conductivities of HYMATs

How did the Lecturer give this lecture? (blackboard writings, script, slides)

In the next step, the individual groups had to choose a suitable paper. The paper must fit the main topic and allow scope for further scientific discussion. The selected paper was then presented in a lecture (approx. 20 min) followed by a discussion (total 30-40 min).
Based on the selected paper, a new research idea should be elaborated that addresses an unresolved issue of the respective work and provides new approaches towards its solution. This was the most challenging but at the same time the most exciting task. One also receives very helpful assistance from the respective coaches. The meetings must be organised by the participants themselves. Our group had a very engaged coach who was always willing to take time for us to discuss any questions and suggestions for topics that arose. Once an idea has been elaborated, each group was asked to write a research proposal. Supporting material was uploaded and a template was made available for this purpose. In this phase, it was particularly important to work closely together as a team. Our group did most of the work via Google Docs. Although it was not the best choice in terms of formatting, it allowed us to see all the changes our teammates made simultaneously and to comment on them if necessary. In the end, someone just had to do the finishing touches. I think we managed to distribute the work quite equally. Attention should be paid to this as well, as it has a clear positive impact on the working atmosphere. After the research proposals were submitted, the first round of peer review took place. This was done through an online survey based on predefined criteria.

How were the tutorial sessions structured? How time-consuming are the exercise sheets?

As a tutorial, Dr. Dana Medina presented her current research topic in the HYMAT seminar. The primary aim thereby was to learn to ask, “nasty questions”. In general, the focus of the seminar was also to give the students the courage to question research, no matter how prestigious the lecturer or the journal in which the work was published.

What was the exam like? (written or oral, length of the exam, time required for exam preparations)

Most important for the final evaluation of the seminar had been the final presentation of the proposal. In our case, the COVID 19 pandemic interfered, so the presentations were held over Zoom on two days. It was very important to give a short, concise presentation of the most important aspects of the proposal (defence) (5-10 minutes). Afterwards, Prof. Dr. Fischer and Dr. Kieslich asked questions, which were often addressed directly to the speakers. The auditorium then had the opportunity to ask further questions. The total duration of the discussion was about 30 minutes. After the defences, a final peer review round was done in which each student was evaluated by their peers on their defence. This was also done anonymously via Moodle.

What are the required qualifications for this course? Are there certain bachelor’s or master’s lectures that are fundamental or complementary to this lecture?

No special prior knowledge from certain lectures is required. However, communication skills, sensible time management and enthusiasm for one’s own topic are important.

Would you recommend the lecture to others? What was your motivation for choosing this lecture?

Participants in this seminar will learn in a short format the basic path of every scientist from the elaboration of a research question to the final publication. I would recommend the seminar to other students, as it provides good training in important skills you will need later as a scientist and is also challenging. The effort is worth it, and it is another affirmation not to second guess but to just do things.