Scientific Councilor

I AM:

Dr. rer. nat. Romy Marx
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for Occupational Medicine



Dr. Romy Marx did a doctorate in Biochemistry, did a postdoc and then joined the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as a research assistant. In the meantime, she is employed there as a senior scientific adviser and ensures that employees are protected from risks associated with chemical agents.

Why did you choose your specialty? What attracted you to it?

Interest in flora and fauna and the urge to understand how life works made me study Biochemistry . That didn't happen by chance, it was my wish from an early age. The specialization in neuro- and electrophysiology was more likely the coincidence of coincidences. Strictly speaking, my location was a determining factor. I didn't want to do a doctorate or a postdoc abroad, I wanted to stay loyal to the Ruhr area. As a result, I was limited in terms of content, but you can turn any project into your own and I found my doctoral topic extremely exciting in the end. I found the search for genotypic causes for phenotypic clinical symptoms particularly appealing.

How did you start your career?

The path of the natural scientist is quite straightforward. After completing a doctorate, various postdoc positions, publishing as much as possible with a high impact, doing habilitation and being appointed. So I started a postdoc position. At that time, however, I was already aware that the associated creation of applications for third-party funding is not a permanent solution for me. That's why I looked for other positions beyond research at universities and institutes. During the period of my search, there were fundamental changes in European chemicals law and the entry into force of the REACH regulation, which has led to the hiring of many new specialists in Germany. This leaked to me. The basic requirement was a degree in the natural sciences and knowledge of English, coupled with the offer of permanent employment at the Dortmund location. I applied and was lucky enough to get the job.

Did you know that you wanted to go into your current professional field? Or were there other stations that brought you there?

What I am doing today has nothing to do with what I have studied in terms of content. The course and the doctorate help to focus on working on a project, to grasp scientific connections, to work in a structured way and to train a certain tolerance for frustration. However, I've always been so knitted that my job enables me to live my life and not that my job determines my life. Therefore, private always came before professional and personal planning security before thematic demands. I've always secretly flirted with the civil service. The way to the federal institute then came faster than expected, because the opportunity was simply there.

What are you doing today? What tasks do you have as a senior scientific advisor?

In my tenth year, I mainly do policy advice. When transposing EU law into national law (such as occupational health and safety) and with REACH, member states perform tasks that fall under federal jurisdiction. In order to protect employees from risks associated with chemical agents, this means that regulations must be proposed and drawn up that pursue this protection goal and are suitable for implementation in Germany. The responsible ministry is then given technical advice when the rules in Germany and the EU are coordinated on the basis of social partnerships (either through preliminary work or delegation of tasks). Technical advice is one of my tasks.

What knowledge and characteristics should you have for your professional field?

- Interest in specialist political contexts
- Fun and enthusiasm in designing long-term (5 years and more) projects
- good communication skills (excellent English skills)
- Understanding of cultural differences and knowledge of different interest groups
- Ability to criticize one's own work (technically correct does not necessarily mean politically opportune)

Describe a typical working day. Are there any unforeseen events that require your attention? How do you work with colleagues? Do you work in a team?

I coordinate a team (5 people) within my division (15 people) and am also part of a matrix-structured process. In addition to mandatory administrative tasks (file security authority), I am a member of several German and EU working groups, so that I regularly travel to Germany and the EU. In addition, I am regularly invited to give lectures and actively organize events with German or European audiences. These things are usually subject to long-term planning and are seldom unforeseen. We have to react spontaneously when we B. receive small inquiries that fall within our area of responsibility from political parties or decrees from ministries. Then everything else remains because processing times of a few hours are necessary. However, this is rather the exception and the work can be planned very well.

Inter- and intradisciplinary cooperation and the ability to work in a team are cornerstones of my work.

To what extent does your day-to-day work differ from that during your studies / doctorate? To what extent did your studies / doctorate prepare you for your current job?

The (self-determined) regular working hours, the free weekends and the very good compatibility of family and work are the big difference to the time of the doctorate and in research. In addition, my economic future no longer depends on publishing as much as possible or raising third-party funding. This gives me time to fully concentrate on the technical content of my work. In addition, I personally find it a great advantage that I

am permanently active in my professional environment, which enables a solid and reliable network to be formed and real specialization in the specialist topic.

What do you love about your work? Are there any special challenges?

I admit that I am an idealist and that I draw a lot of energy from the fact that I can maybe make the world a little better with my work.

If I act correctly and manage to convince the political level with technical arguments, then perhaps I can organize their activities for some employees so safely that they no longer have any risks for illnesses. This is what drives me.

The challenge is that you need staying power and patience until the good ideas really turn into implemented, lived practice. But since I still have a few decades of work ahead of me, I can spare this patience.

Has your area of responsibility changed over time?

In any case. In the beginning, the REACH regulation was new territory for all actors involved and helping to shape its implementation and developing strategies was the dominant part of my work in the early days. The work then led to thinking outside the box and changing to other topics. At the beginning you are also involved in all sub-procedures, at some point the team specializes in sub-aspects and content-related focal points almost without any involvement. In addition, you get more responsibility over time, so that the tasks also shift towards administrative and personal responsibility.

What are career opportunities in your professional field?

Typically, you start out as a research assistant and are grouped higher in terms of suitability and performance. In the case of civil service, one becomes a scientific adviser, and there, too, promotion to senior adviser is provided for in the case of suitability and performance. Further advancement is then only possible with personnel responsibility and leadership in the form of group management, but these positions are naturally not often vacant. Delegations to the ministries, to the Commission in Brussels or to the ECHA in Helsinki are desired and are supported and therefore also offer the possibility of development if one strives for this. Management positions are also possible in the course of professional life.

If someone wants to pursue the same career path, what would you advise them to do?

Since there are not as many positions today as there were 10 years ago and there is now a lot of experience in the authorities, getting started is no longer so easy.

But: If you are interested and enthusiastic, an application for an advertised position is definitely worthwhile.

In order to increase the chances of being hired, the application should in any case clarify your own motivation and why you want to work in an authority. This separates the wheat from the chaff when the applications are viewed. In fact, getting started is the hardest part and you should prepare very well if you are invited to an interview. We are looking for colleagues with whom we have worked closely for many years and the applicant should reflect the same desire.

Note: For reasons of readability, the simultaneous use of gender-specific language forms is not used. All personal names apply to all genders.

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last modified: 10.05.2021 15:09 H from