Why did you decide to come to the U.S. to pursue your degree and, specifically, how did you decide to come to Philly, Drexel, and MSE?
I had spent some time in Berkeley, CA, where I did research on porous biomaterials and wrote my master's thesis. While there, I had a chance to meet my advisor, former faculty member Dr. Ulrike Wegst, who had been a visiting scientist at Berkeley and had just become a tenure-track professor at Drexel. After finishing my mechanical engineering diploma in Germany, I was offered to come to Philadelphia and continue research on the field of bone replacement scaffolds in her new group. The two main reasons to come to Drexel were the chance to work on an exciting project, which I really liked, and the opportunity to build up a new lab. Furthermore, Drexel's reputation, facilities, and location right in the heart of Philadelphia were important arguments for my decision.
What were your favorite things about Philly?
I lived in the Art Museum area and loved the balance of a metropolitan city, small neighborhoods, and being out in nature, which is possible through Fairmount Park. Unlike many other American cities, Philadelphia has always given me the feeling of being a "grown" city with a lot of past and ongoing development which has a history that goes back to the foundation of the U.S. Also, I think I would not be able to live without egg and cheese sandwiches anymore...
What was your typical schedule like during the week and weekend?
I would say, on average, I worked 10 hour days, but having 12 hour days or even more would not be exceptional at all. Many weekends I would come in to get some work done or to start or finish time-sensitive experiments, but sometimes I also managed to just stay out, relax, and try not to deal with work at all for a day.
What have you found are the biggest differences between your home country and the U.S.?
One of the major differences is the amount of small talk and communication in everyday situations like shopping or at work. In the beginning, it really bothered me that I had to talk so much. Now, when I go back to Germany, I am shocked that I can run errands and return home without having spoken a single word.
What were your plans for after graduation while still a student?
While still a student, for the time after graduation, I had no fixed plans. There were just too many options: I could stay in the U.S. or return to Germany. I could go to industry or continue work at a research institution as a post-doc. In my case, I did a post-doc with Dr. Wegst at Dartmouth and now ...
How do you feel your Drexel materials degree prepared you for your post-graduation plans?
I have the feeling of having been well prepared for all post-graduation options. During my time at Drexel, besides all my research activity, I taught a lot, which has prepared me well for any educational work environment. Also, I organized, ran, and evaluated many projects where I had to interact with collaborators or had to supervise undergraduate and graduate students, which provided me with a lot of experience needed in industry.
Do you have any advice for international students looking to study in the U.S.?
As an international student, you should start looking into the educational system in the U.S. rather early. Even though, through the Bologna process, the EU tries to make it easier to transfer between research institutions in different countries, it can still be complicated to switch. When planning to study in the U.S., I would definitely contact professors directly and ask them for advice and hints with whom to contact. The necessary information can also be found on the internet on the webpages of the different research institutions, but can be rather confusing, especially when you are not familiar with the educational system. Make sure you know exactly what you have to do for a successful application, which most likely includes a TOEFL test and a GRE score.