Doctoral Prize

Who are the best doctoral candidates at Helmholtz?

From left to right: Dr. Korinna Strobel, Head Strategy Helmholtz Association, Dr.-Ing. Alexandra Amherd Hidalgo, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Centre for Materials and Coastal Research, Dr. Ann-Christin Baranski, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Dr.-Ing. Antoine B. Jacquey, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Dr. Sinikka Lennartz, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Dr.-Ing. Daniel Leidner, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Prof. Dr. Otmar Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. Picture: Helmholtz/Stefanie Herbst

At the Helmholtz Horizons event in Berlin, six young researchers were recognized for their outstanding scientific achievements. In these brief interviews, they discuss the focal points of their research and their plans for the future.


Ann-Christin Baranski, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum Heidelberg

In a few words: What is your research about?

In treating prostate cancer, the precise removal of the tumor tissue is one of the critical success factors (others being hormone and radiation therapy). During this operation, it is a challenge for the surgeon to distinguish between healthy tissue and tumor tissue and to delimit tumor lesions (injuries) precisely. My doctoral thesis focused on developing low-molecular hybrid connections that bind specifically to PSMA, an antigen that is overexpressed in prostate cancer cells. The connection bears a dual label consisting of a radionuclide and a fluorescent dye. This dual label enables non-invasive pre-operative imaging combined with intra-operative navigation, allowing therapy decisions to be supported by sensitive detection and localization of tumor tissue.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

The biggest challenge was the pre-clinical characterization of the connections with near-infrared dye. Many conventional laboratory devices are still unable to detect the near-infrared range. So the challenge was to find alternatives or to design experiments so that clinical equipment such as the Da Vinci surgical system could be used with a near-infrared channel.

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to continue to develop new pharmaceuticals for imaging and endoradiotherapy. I have been heading the biotechnological development group in the Radiopharmaceutical Development department (Deutsches Konsortium für Translationale Krebsforschung, or DKTK, the German Cancer Research Center of Freiburg’s Nuclear Medicine clinic). We are working on identifying new biomarkers for classifying tumors, assessing metastasizing potential, and monitoring therapy. As part of these efforts, we are developing low-molecular peptides that are suitable for such applications as pre-operative and intra-operative imaging and targeted endoradiotherapy.

Ann-Christin Baranski was born in Coesfeld, Germany, in 1990 and grew up in the Münsterland region. She studied pharmacy at Heidelberg University, where she qualified in 2014. As part of her studies, she spent time researching at King’s College, London. She earned her doctorate at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.


Oleg Gorobtsov, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

In a few words: What is your research about?

During my PhD program, I focused on applications and properties of coherent, high-intensity X-ray radiation. X-ray and XUV Free Electron Lasers (FELs) and advanced synchrotron sources developed, built and upgraded in the last decade open new avenues of research: their high coherence allows 3D imaging with nanometer resolution, even for amorphous materials, and ultrashort pulse duration of FELs especially allows studying electronic processes and chemical reactions happening on femtosecond timescales. A big part of my research, therefore, focused on understanding and measuring coherence and temporal properties of these sources. Other projects included modeling implications of radiation damage and some often-overlooked crystal properties for coherent X-ray methods.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

The biggest challenge, but also a big benefit, in my opinion, was a wide range of topics that I had to cover during my PhD. I had to familiarize myself with FEL and synchrotron functioning principles, correlation analysis, diffraction imaging methods, ionization processes and electronic processes that follow, dynamical diffraction theory in crystals, and many other connected topics.

What are your plans for the future?

I am now working as a postdoc in Cornell University, Materials Science and Engineering Department. I am applying my expertise with FELs, synchrotrons, and X-ray coherent methods to research in batteries for renewable energy applications and quantum materials.

Oleg Gorobtsov was born in Moscow, Russia. He studied applied physics and math in Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, working in Kurchatov Institute at the synchrotron source located there. In 2012, he began his graduate studies at DESY in Hamburg, Germany. Starting in 2018, Oleg is doing his postdoc at Cornell University in Ithaca, United States.

 


Alexandra Amherd Hidalgo, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG)

In a few words: What is your research about?

Powder metallurgy of titanium is a promising alternative to the conventional manufacturing of wrought titanium for cost-effective production of components. Beside of pressing and sintering, metal injection moulding is the most established Powder Metallurgy technology. However, the manufacture of high-performance titanium components by metal injection moulding is still challenging. The high affinity which titanium has for interstitial elements and the effect of residual porosity are two important aspects that limit the range of applications. Therefore, my research contributes to the fundamental understanding about the influence of interstitials (oxygen and carbon) and sintering aids (iron) on robustness of Ti-6Al-7Nb alloy, suitable for biomedical applications and processed by metal injection moulding.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

One of the biggest issues in my doctoral thesis comes from the high affinity which titanium has for interstitial elements (oxygen, carbon and nitrogen). This fact made the production of titanium samples with the desired interstitial content difficult. In addition, the variation of just one interstitial element while keeping the other elements constant was challenging.

What are your plans for the future?

Nowadays I work as a Material Specialist in a Swiss company for watch production. I am very much in contact with materials science, especially with powder technology. I hope this experience gives me new knowledge in materials research and process development from the industrial point of view.

Alexandra Amherd Hidalgo was born in Madrid, Spain. She was graduated as an Industrial Engineer specialized in Materials Science at the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid. She worked as a research assistant in the Design and Materials Unit of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland. Since 2015 she pursued her doctorate at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and completed it at Cottbus University.


Antoine Jacquey, Deutsches GeoForschungszentrum – GFZ Potsdam

In a few words: What is your research about?

My research deals with modelling of deep geothermal reservoirs. Geothermal operations aim to harvest the heat energy stored in the underground both for direct usage and for electricity conversion. Usually one or more borehole doublets are drilled to reach the targeted geological depth where the heat stored within the rock can be extracted by injecting and producing operational fluid in the reservoir. During my doctoral studies, I developed and used numerical modelling by combining data from laboratory experiments and field operations to assess the behavior of geothermal reservoirs both in terms of productivity and environmental safety, meaning minimizing the risk of induced seismicity.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

One of the challenges that I faced during my research was to integrate data from different scales into my modelling framework. I was using data from laboratory experiments at the scale of several centimeters and managed to use them for answering questions at the scale of field operations which ranges from hundreds of meters to several kilometers. I had to learn the different techniques for both laboratory work and field operations, This gave me the chance to collaborate with colleagues from different fields and to develop an interdisciplinary approach.

What are your plans for the future?

Currently, I am working on extending the work I have performed during my PhD thesis to address questions related to the understanding and potential usage of supercritical geothermal reservoirs . This is quite a challenging and exiting topic and I hope to use what I have achieved so far to address new topics such as the physics controlling earthquakes rupture and their prediction.

Antoine Jacquey was born in Castres (France). He studied Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics in Montpellier (France) before obtaining his Engineer degree (equivalent. to Master of Science) in Energy and Process Engineering from the École des Mines de Saint-Étienne (France). During these studies, he conducted an internship at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm (Sweden), spent one year as Erasmus exchange at the Technical University of Berlin and wrote his Master thesis at the Institute of Energy Technology in Kjeller (Norway). In 2014, he started his doctoral studies at the German Research Centre for Geosciences – GFZ Potsdam in collaboration with the RWTH Aachen and graduated in 2017 with distinctions.


Daniel Leidner, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)

In a few words: What is your research about?

Evolution has equipped humans with unique mental abilities that allow us to mentally simulate interactions with the environment, execute actions sensitively, and qualitatively assess the effects of those actions on the environment. In my doctoral thesis, I transferred these abilities to the “Rollin’s Justin” humanoid robot. To this end, I combined planning methods from the artificial intelligence (AI) research field with compliant whole-body manipulation approaches from control technology. This allows the service robot to perform a number of everyday tasks, such as cleaning a window.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

At the beginning of my doctoral studies, it became clear very quickly that the planning methods I had developed provided the foundation for Justin’s autonomy concept. This made it even more important that the approaches were designed to be as multifaceted and general as possible and made as robust as possible in regard to application errors. This apparent contradiction was further heightened by the decision that the methods in question would form the basic concept for the planned astronaut-robot collaboration aboard the International Space Station (ISS). These stringent requirements ultimately contributed to the first-ever collaboration between a cognitive assistant robot and astronauts in space.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to transfer my knowledge from space to society![DL1]  Experiments with astronauts, some of whom were untrained, have shown that the technology has advanced to the point where we can now confidently tackle several of the great problems of our time. Servicerobotik für Menschen in Lebenssituationen mit Einschränkungen (SMiLE), or service robotics for people living with limitations, is the next logical step in this process. In the current project, and in its follow-on projects, my approaches are to be used to develop assistant robots for those in need of care. To this end, we are embarking on close collaborative efforts with care experts. I hope that these efforts will also ultimately provide support to care workers in the performance of time-consuming tasks so that they can devote more of their energy to the social components of their duties.

Daniel Leidner was born in Annweiler am Trifels, Germany, and completed the degree and master’s programs in technical informatics at Mannheim University of Applied Sciences. His doctorate in artificial intelligence and robotics is the result of a collaboration between the University of Bremen and the German Aerospace Center.

 


Sinikka Lennartz, Geomar Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel

In a few words: What is your research about?

My research focuses on the interplay between the ocean and the atmosphere. This interplay determines our climate. Gases form in the ocean, produced by microorganisms or sunlight for example, and reach the atmosphere, where they affect the climate. I paid special attention to sulfuric gases, which become aerosols in the atmosphere and reflect sunlight back into space. My work encompasses both the development of measuring systems and measurements at sea, and the development of models that allow better estimation of the ocean’s emissions and their impacts on the environment.

What were the biggest challenges while you were earning your doctorate?

The technical challenge was refining a measurement system in a laboratory on land that was to be used for measurements at sea, since errors at sea can hardly ever be corrected – there is no second chance out there. A great deal of teamwork went into that effort. Coordinating the three measuring devices, some of which I had refined myself, without any assistance and overcoming the odd setback here and there was certainly challenging. Overall, however, the positives are clearly greater, and I would not have wanted to miss out on this special experience.

What are your plans for the future?

In the near future, I will continue to work in the field of climate and ocean research, but my focus will be on studying natural CO2 storage in the ocean. To that end, I will be transferring to a postdoc position at the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg. In the long term, I would like to establish my own working group in the field of marine biogeochemistry.

Sinikka Lennartz was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1987. She studied geoecology at the University of Tübingen, where she received her bachelor’s degree, and at the Technical University of Braunschweig, where she received her master’s. During her studies, she had resident stays in Switzerland and the U.S. She completed her doctorate in marine biogeochemistry at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. During her studies, she participated in research expeditions to such destinations as the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


07.11.2018 , Editor: Elena Hungerland
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