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Recruiting the Best and Brightest for Berlin

A program at Freie Universität aims to make it easier for junior scholars and scientists to embark on an academic career in Germany.

Jan 06, 2014

Teilnehmer des Postdoc Fellowship Programms der Dahlem Research School: Rob Boddice (l.) und Christoph Bachhuber (r.)
Rob Boddice (left) and Christoph Bachhuber (right) are both finding the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program of Dahlem Research School to be beneficial. Image Credit: Jan Hambura

They have already spent time at Harvard, Cambridge, and other elite universities. The Postdoc Fellowship Program at the Dahlem Research School (DRS) offers funding for highly qualified postdocs from other countries to work at Freie Universität for up to 24 months.

This support allows the postdocs to work on their own research projects and start an academic career in Germany. The support provided by the DRS also includes a qualification program and a weeklong orientation program.

Rob Boddice has a lot of tips to offer Christoph Bachhuber. Boddice, a 36-year old British citizen, has been at Freie Universität for nearly two years now. After completing his dissertation at the University of York, Boddice went on to do research at institutions including Harvard University and the European College of Liberal Arts, in Berlin. Then, in January 2012, he came to Freie Universität as a DRS-supported postdoc at the “Languages of Emotion” cluster of excellence. Bachhuber, for his part, is just starting his work at the university’s Dahlem campus. For several months now, Egyptologist Bachhuber has been doing research there on current archaeology in Egypt.

His research also includes political issues such as those surrounding the return of archaeological artifacts. “I’d really like to form an interdisciplinary research group made up of doctoral candidates and postdocs to study this issue,” says Bachhuber, whose current position is at the Center for Area Studies at Freie Universität. He amassed experience in the field when writing his dissertation at the University of Oxford and through stays abroad as a researcher, including at the British Institute in Ankara, Turkey, and at Brown University.

Bachhuber is one of the DRS Fellows who have been receiving support since the spring of 2013 under the COFUND program launched by the European Commission. The junior scholars and scientists who have received support so far – 27 in all – have come from many different countries around the world: the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Ukraine, Israel, Pakistan, Kenya, China, and the U.S. Also among them is social and cultural anthropology scholar Anika König, a German junior scholar whom the university has managed to recruit back from Australian National University, in Canberra. “We have a great interest in giving junior scientists and scholars long-term research prospects at Freie Universität,” says Dian Michel, the program manager who is responsible for support for junior scholars and scientists, including the Postdoc Fellowship Program at the Dahlem Research School.

The program has been such a great success that it has even been expanded further in the meantime. The DRS was granted further funding under the European Commission’s Marie Curie COFUND program in the fall of 2013, making it possible to extend the scholars’ stays and increase the available resources for material expenses and travel.

The goal of the fellowship program at the DRS within the scope of Freie Universität’s concept for the future is to recruit highly qualified postdocs from countries outside Germany and provide them with comprehensive support in embarking on an academic career in Germany during a stay at Freie Universität lasting between 15 and 24 months. During this time, the postdocs are hired by Freie Universität as members of the academic staff, and they perform their own research projects.

Each postdoc is “linked” with a certain area of research emphasis, such as one of the five Focus Areas, meaning strategic centers such as the Dahlem Humanities Center or the Center for Area Studies, one of the graduate schools, or one of the clusters of excellence at Freie Universität. Alongside workshops and seminars on the research and funding landscape in Germany, career development, university instruction, and self-management and project management, the researchers are also given preparation to apply for external funding for a project so that they can continue their research and teaching activities at Freie Universität for a longer period.

Rob Boddice has already done so. A historian, Boddice recently submitted a successful application to the German Research Foundation (DFG) under the “Temporary Positions for Principal Investigators” funding program. He will use the new funding to carry out his research project “The Science of Sympathy: Morality, Evolution and Victorian Civilisation” at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute, part of the Department of History and Cultural Studies. He has great praise for the DRS program, especially the “incredible research freedom and generous funding” it provides. Boddice explains that these features have allowed him, most particularly, to travel to different universities and European research institutions. Or, as the expert in the history of emotions, evolution, and German and British history puts it, “Being part of this intellectual environment is a unique opportunity.”

Further Information

Dr. Dian Michel, Freie Universität Berlin, Dahlem Research School, Tel.: +49 30 838-73926, Email: