Prof. Dr. Fritz E. Kühn

Prof. Dr. Fritz E. Kühn

Associate Professorship of Molecular Catalysis

Which research topics are you focused on in your working group?

The basic topic is organometallic chemistry and its applications, whereas the applications are either in molecular catalysis or in what was used to be called homogeneous catalysis. Where you know or hope to know what the catalyst is. In other words, a clear molecule and not a large agglomerate, where it is not exactly clear and it is not so easy to find out where the catalysis could take place. The second topic is applications in medicinal chemistry, although the complexes themselves often do not differ so much. The main difference is that the metals can be more expensive in medicinal chemistry than in molecular catalysis.

What exactly do you do in the field of catalysis research?

There is a relatively wide range, but the longest expertise is in oxidation catalysis, but we also do hydrogenation catalysis and to a certain extent, polymerization catalysis. However, the topics in oxidation catalysis are different too. That means for example epoxidation catalysis, C-H oxidation, aromatic oxidation and so on. The topics there are also relatively broadly spread and depend more on the properties of the catalyst rather than targeting a specific mechanism beforehand. For us, the focus is less on organic synthesis that is catalyzed than on the catalyst that carries out special catalysis.

How is the schedule and content of a research internship designed at your working group?

The schedule and content would be such that, in principle, a literature search would be carried out first, if it had not already been done by the respective supervising assistant. Afterward, based on this and the preliminary work, the actual internship work is carried out in close cooperation with the supervising assistant.

Is it necessary to write a research proposal?

Not for me. In my opinion, too much planning does not make sense. A little exaggerated, it is said that on the first day of synthesis all previous planning is invalid. We do not do meticulous planning with milestones. This does not mean that things are chaotic, but that there can and should be a performance-based focus.

How does the theme selection process work?

The project is proposed by a doctoral student. It can also be proposed by a person who is doing a research internship and has previously looked at the homepage or talked to a staff member. Then the whole thing is put under one topic and in the end, a suitable heading is found, because it may develop a little bit away from the original planning. This is rather unlikely with such a short internship, but it can still happen.

Which synthetical methods are used for the respective topics?

In day-to-day business, we mainly work with Schlenk technology. The glovebox can also be used but is usually not necessary. In principle, Schlenk technology is sufficient, but some things also work under normal conditions in the air. Catalysis is then usually the easier part. This is primarily gas chromatography. In-situ characterization and tracking of the course of the reaction are relatively demanding. I would say that unless the project deals with very specific aspects of the topic, it goes beyond the time frame.

Is a progress/final talk about the research internship planned?

As is customary here, this is not planned. We try to do as few special treatments as possible, if someone wants to give a presentation, they may do so, but it is not an obligation. Reports are not proofread in detail by me. In our working group the reports are corrected by the people who are still in the learning process, the doctoral students. Depending on how experienced the doctoral students are, this may or may not come close to being published. In my experience, the reports are almost always too detailed and too little focused on the real focal points.

With which working groups are overlapping topics possible?

There are of course industrial collaborations both within the Wacker Institute and with other companies. The peer-review process is, of course, a problem with industrial cooperations. You would have to make sure that the work in question does not end up in this peer-review process. Short communication cans of course also be written about the internship, but then I must read it and not the student peers.
There are internal and external collaborations. It is also possible to do a master’s thesis at a company. This is then even more restrictive about confidentiality, but too high a hurdle of confidentiality does not make sense for an advanced internship in this context. There are of course cooperation with other universities possible.

Can a research intership be expanded to a master’s thesis?

In principle, yes. Whenever something worthwhile comes out. I have done an advanced internship in a group where it would have made a lot of sense to do a thesis, but I had already committed myself elsewhere. That was a pity. The subject was never followed up further. I think it is often the case that research topics appear and if the student is already familiar with it, a few weeks of training have already been saved.

Do you choose your master candidates according to whether they have done a research internship in your working group?

Everyone can apply for the master’s thesis. If he has been here before and people say it was a good staff, then that is of course good. If people say: “Oh God!”, then, of course, that’s a bad sign. I am already asking my staff if an applicant has worked here before to know more about them. If someone comes from outside or he or she studies here but hasn’t worked here, I look at their grades and what previous knowledge they have. I also note that the internships in the bachelor’s program were reasonably good. If someone bearly passed the basic inorganic internships, that is also of course not a good sign.

How much cake does your working group expect?

I don’t expect anything. I don’t remember having eaten any cake in the past 10 years with such collaborators. That depends on the employees alone. I stay out of that. For me, that is certainly not a decisive criterion. I do not know whether this is the same for the supervisor.