I spent five years at the KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) writing my thesis titled ‘Numerical simulation of colloidal particle systems’.

The Doctoral Student Award

Colloidal particles are particles that are smaller than a micrometre and have a very large surface area in relation to their volume. The properties of this surface area have a considerable bearing on the particles’ behaviour. They can, for example, form an ion cloud. I investigated how this cloud affects the movement of colloidal particles. The results I obtained from detailed simulations were then scaled up to a level at which industrial processes run, as part of an industry partnership project. In particular, I was able to apply my results to calculations used in coating processes, such as the enamelling and electrophoretic coating of vehicles. These procedures are based on the principles which I investigated in my thesis. My objective was then to devise a calculation model to predict coating thickness values for coating processes and identify potential improvements. Money is a key factor in all of this – after all, the more material used for coating, the more the manufacturer has to pay.

When my doctorate was almost complete, my professor put my thesis forward for the Doctoral Student Award. I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I was, of course, confident that my conclusions were well researched and relevant, but the KIT also investigates topics such as ways to improve lithium-ion batteries or make fuel out of biomass, which tend to get more attention than my colloidal particles.

Awarded with the Doctoral Student Award

But then I received an email informing me that I had won the Doctoral Student Award of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. I was sitting in the living room and almost fell off the sofa when I checked my inbox. I could hardly believe my eyes and had to get my wife to calmly read out the email to me. The award is a great honour for me, and the 2000 Euro prize money has come at just the right time as my wife and I are expecting a baby in February.

In addition to my award, five other doctoral students were also given awards in different areas of research. I think these prizes reward us all for the great effort we put into our work. All in all, I have spent five years doing research for my doctorate; it has been a challenging time with many ups, downs, and late nights. You have to push yourself to the limits; you might spend weeks fretting about one issue and, despite working 10 hours a day on that issue, you find that you still don’t really make much progress. I was very pleased to reach the finish line – after all, to spend such a long time focussing on just a single subject does get rather mind-numbing.

Dr. Florian Keller

This is why I find my work at MANN+HUMMEL all the more enjoyable: the turnaround times are much shorter and my work in the field of simulation gives me insights into a very wide range of departments. This is far more diverse than researching a single subject over several years.