University lecturer


Prof. Dr. Easterland
Augsburg University of Technology

Prof. Dr. Osterland initially started his career as a project engineer and laboratory manager. During his subsequent work as a group leader at the University of Lüneburg, his desire to stay at a university permanently solidified. Prof. Osterland has been working at the TH Augsburg since 2015.

Why did you choose your field of expertise? What attracted you to it?

I found chemistry exciting even as a student. It combines scientific logical concepts with a variety of practical applications. Catalysis unites many areas of chemistry and forms a bridge to engineering sciences. For me, this interdisciplinarity is the key to solving our big problems, such as reducing the currently far too high greenhouse gas emissions. From chemical thermodynamics, the synthesis of energy storage materials and the practical implementation of energy storage using catalysts to corrosion and energy storage potential assessments: chemistry is ultimately the basis of many innovations in engineering sciences.

What was your career start like?

Very adventurous, but also instructive: Due to the specialist focus of my chemistry studies, I was surprised by practical, sometimes non-technical challenges. I was employed as a laboratory manager and project engineer at a small company near Rostock. In practice, I was a “girl for everything” due to the lack of laboratory staff. For example, in addition to optimizing fuel synthesis, I was able to chemically analyze chemically unknown waste collected from predecessors in order to dispose of it correctly, but also negotiate with potential customers about future projects and examine company patents for possibilities and limitations. Dealing with CAD programs and construction drawings for the first time also presented surprising hurdles. Another change was to use low-cost analysis techniques to answer complex research questions. Ultimately, this partly unexpected practical training helped me a lot in my later professional positions.

Were you aware that you wanted to go into your current career field? Or were there other stops that brought you there?

To be honest, I didn't do much career planning. Instead, I was influenced by exciting job changes. Just 6 months after starting my career, I moved to Fraunhofer IFAM in Dresden to investigate hydrogen storage materials based on metal hydrides for 3 years. I then became a group leader at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg for three years. There, in an interdisciplinary team, we optimized chemical heat storage materials and developed demonstrators based on them. It was only in the second year that the desire to work permanently at a university solidified. I originally wanted to become a university professor, but later, through coaching, I realized my true calling as a university lecturer in the current interdisciplinary environment.

What are you doing today? What tasks do you have as a university lecturer?

As a professor at a technical university, you are primarily a university teacher with 18 teaching hours per week. I teach various modules in the environmental and process engineering and mechanical engineering courses. From chemistry to environmental technology, plastics technology to reaction technology. I am also involved in smaller research projects on synthetic fuels, as a coordinator for school collaborations within our faculty and also outside the university in the GDCh's Energy Transition ThinkTank. Sometimes I am also a life advisor or coach for students who are desperate or looking for guidance. Most of the time, I am more of a catalyst for the development of our students into capable and sought-after engineers.

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

Of course, you should have a solid technical basis and be able to familiarize yourself with previously unknown areas. You should be unconditionally convinced of people's ability to develop. Sometimes it takes a while, but almost all of our serious students develop into engineers who can really do something. You should also be approachable and people-friendly, but also willing to set boundaries. Otherwise, intellectual flexibility and curiosity help to continually adapt teaching to current practical developments.

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

Typically, courses and exams account for at least 80% of my working time. To do this, I first look at what I want to convey in the course and where I plan to interact. However, a change in plan often arises depending on the situation (e.g. if there are difficulties with content and exercises), for which you should be flexible. I teach some modules with colleagues, so there are always small coordinations here. In addition, there are quite often inquiries or submissions to be evaluated via email or learning platform. Finally, the chemical engineering laboratory also demands my attention, for example when developing or repairing systems or preparing and carrying out experiments. Fortunately, the administrative activities are manageable. This includes grade reports, proof of work for assistants, etc. or business trip statements. I carry out larger projects or changes to teaching during the lecture-free period.

To what extent does your everyday working life differ today from that during your studies/doctorate? To what extent did your studies/doctorate prepare you for your current job?

The course prepared me well both professionally and in terms of self-organization. The timetable also ensures a good timing. I learned non-technical things on the job. The biggest difference to studying and doing my doctorate is that no one judges me anymore and I have to define my own tasks and goals relatively freely. We university teachers also carry out success checks ourselves, for example through teaching evaluations but also based on examination results. Another important difference is that the tasks are smaller and more varied. I'm rarely able to dedicate myself to one thing for more than a few hours during the semester, as I prepare and hold various courses almost every day and deal with various student inquiries.

What excites you about your work? Are there any special challenges?

I am always happy about creative solutions and contributions from students. For example, there is a seminar in environmental technology in which students carry out their own small, interactive knowledge transfer. Overall, it is fulfilling that you can observe positive professional and personal development in almost all students. The technical developments in which you participate through thesis supervision are exciting. I generally find the sometimes very emotional discussions about scarce resources within the faculty challenging. Sometimes I also find it difficult to motivate myself and clearly define and pursue my goals. Nobody does that for you because you are practically responsible for your own teaching and exams.

What are career opportunities in your professional field?

You can either go heavily into research or pursue a Career in academic self-administration. However, compared to companies, leadership positions are rare and not as powerful. For example, a course director or dean of studies has hardly any authority to issue instructions. Even a dean has to have many decisions legitimized democratically. In addition, all functions up to and including the president are temporary and are filled through elections. The scope for design is sometimes very large.

If someone wanted to pursue the same career path, what advice would you give them?

The prerequisite is industrial experience or industry-related work of at least 3 years. You should also ask yourself: Do I want to work primarily as a teacher in adult education for the rest of my professional life? Do I like dealing with people? Can I motivate and structure myself? It is also worth taking part in the GDCh program CheMento, as it gives you great insights into the professional world of a university professor. Or alternatively, ask a professor about his perspective on the profession.

Note: For reasons of readability, gender-specific language forms are not used at the same time. All personal names apply to all genders.

This page has been machine translated. If you have any feedback or comments please feel free to contact us.

last modified: 12.02.2024 16:14 H from Y.Yasin