Dr. René Nagelsdiek
What was the topic of your PhD dissertation?
After obtaining a degree in Chemistry from the RWTH Aachen, my PhD dissertation in the area of Macromolecular Chemistry (research group Prof. Höcker) was on the production of tailor-made polymer structures through controlled radical polymerization.
How did you come to find out about ALTANA as an employer?
Already during the time of my dissertation, contacts were being made and a scientific exchange was taking place between our chair at the university and BYK-Chemie. As a PhD candidate, it was fascinating for me to see that there are companies which utilize modern polymerization technologies such as controlled radical polymerization to develop high-performance products, and, in doing so, achieve international success. This is definitely not a given: in many cases, companies are relatively conservative in the chemical basis they use - one uses the substance classes one is specialized in and in which one is well versed. Or there are small start-up companies, which admittedly use modern processes, but do not actually develop them up to a point when they are ready for the market or can be brought to the customer.
These approaches are combined at BYK. The useable chemical basis for the development chemist is very broad. At the same time a comprehensive application-related expertise exists in-house. And good contact to customers worldwide is provided through a high-performance sales organization - one recognizes the needs and problems and is able to address them in a targeted manner as part of product developments.
As I was intensively gathering information at that time about potential employers, there were several factors that played a significant role: research and innovation as a top priority, quality consciousness, attractive ownership structure and the resulting interest in long-term value creation.
What was your orientation phase like?
During the first two months at BYK, I visited all synthesis areas, application-related departments as well as additional organizational units that I would be working with as part of my everyday work activities. This was not accomplished just in a theoretical fashion; in most cases, it involved one to two days of practical activities. It was an excellent way to obtain a comprehensive overview of the everyday work activities of my colleagues.
First of all, as a university graduate one generally has no idea about these areas - some of them are maybe known by name. But, in my opinion, what was even more important: you get to know the people that you will be working with in the future, are able to make that initial contact, and have an idea who you can go to for special questions. Even if you yourself are not actually "productive" during these eight weeks, it always pays off later in the day-to-day professional life - because when you do actually have a firm grasp on the average workday, then oftentimes you no longer have or take the time for such things.