Most important for me as university lecturer and researcher is to provide students with the toolbox and support needed to acquire knowledge themselves, and to independently answer research questions. In every course I motivate students to not only search information autonomously and in small groups, but also to critically reflect on the acquired information, as this, to me, represents a (the) crucial foundation of university education and life. I strive for close but self-learning supervision and mentoring in students’ and postdocs’ work and academic development. My ambition is to help develop skills for their life as independent researcher, who can deliver relevant science, based on evidence, correctly analyzed and interpreted, as well as free of misconduct, forming the basis of high-level societal decisions.
Pedagogical expertise and supervision
I previously (co)supervised two doctoral students financed by DAAD and own DFG funding. I currently mentor a postdoctoral researcher and supervise two doctoral students, financed by HIFMB (personal project), a DBU fellowship and by Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), respectively. A PhD represents a long journey, and requires the right balance of intellectual freedom and close supervision. My second doctoral student recently defended his PhD with distinction (summa cum laude) at Kiel University (CAU). During my career, I supervised and/or co-supervised 18 national and international BSc and MSc theses. Currently, I supervise three MSc theses, two at ÅAU and one in collaboration with GEOMAR. I would like to shortly highlight my skills and my motivation in supervision by a reference that I received by one of my previous BSc students: “I just wanted to say that it’s been brilliant working with you this summer. You’ve made me rethink my whole view of science and scientists for the better and it’s been a pleasure to have been supervised by someone so enthusiastic and hard working. I know that if the lecturers I’ve had in England had been anything like you I never would have been put off of science in the first place”. This encouragement likely reflects the integration and involvement of students’ tasks and theses into my actual research motivating them for scientific research and its fascination.
In supervision and mentoring, I am sensitive for solving problems that may arise from inter-cultural differences in the perception of supervision and expectations, important aspects in an international work as researcher (see the wide array of international students I successfully supervised). Through personal experience of sharing child education and parental leave at home, I am further aware of problems that can arise from bringing family and career together, and I am most open to find individual solutions. I see myself as an ambiguous scientist and mentor with the intend and strong motivation to transfer my knowledge to a next generation of scientists. This I have proven in the direct supervision of many students, from school internships to doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers. In this context, I can motivate young researchers to pursue their goals and research ambitions, while producing novel, exciting and solid data for the scientific community and beyond (see publication list). Here, I strongly follow and advice ethical values from experimental design, appropriate statistics and hypotheses testing to data handling and reporting. I believe that students must be capable of pursuing a dedicated research project on a particular research question within a given (but realistic) amount of time, with increasing complexity and independence in work, from BSc to MSc to PhD level. I moreover motivate students to widen their perspective in terms of additional interests and skills, advancing their (and my) research portfolio.
To develop my own skills in supervision and mentoring, I take opportunities for courses and workshops such as Doctoral Thesis Supervision, Im Fokus Promotionsbetreuung & Karriereperspektiven aufzeigen – Betreuende sind gefragt, Postdoc Summer School – Lehren, Führen, Forschen, Entwickeln, all of which helped to reflect on my pedagogical skills, developing the good habits and dropping the bad ones, for a best-possible outcome.
Teaching personality and present/previous courses
In addition to the direct supervision of BSc to PhD theses, I consider university teaching one of the main pillars in training the new generation of researchers within and outside academia. Therefore, I believe, a broad education by responsible and motivated teachers one of the main requirements.
I currently teach in university lectures, seminars, and exercises, as well as in hands-on practical and international exchange labs and summerschools and have taught on research vessel cruises previously. In my recently developed seminar on Stress Ecology (5 ECTS, MSc/PhD) at ÅAU, I, together with the students derive fundamental physiological to ecological concepts such as Q10 and the ecological niche, discuss the multiple of environmental drivers acting in marine ecosystems, and debate applied aspects such as potential mitigation strategies in form of climate refugia and assisted evolution. Within the course I aim for active participation by the students in discussions but also by their presentations in form of talks, posters, and scientific proposals, providing them with best-possible tools for their later careers. Within the lectures and exercises on Statistics (5 ECTS, MSc/PhD), I focus on basic statistical terminology, a wide portfolio in experimental design, as well as basic to more advanced statistical procedures. In exercises, the focus lays on teaching the day-to-day use of the statistical programming environment R and applying R in statistical tests including troubleshooting in R. In annual 2-week international exchange field courses (Ecological Exchange Lab Husö-Kiel, 5 ECTS, MSc shared with GEOMAR in Kiel), we teach hands-on experimental ecology to MSc students at marine field stations in Finland and Germany. Within The Sea at ÅAU Summer School on Solving wicked problems of the future ocean (shared, 5 ECTS, MSc/PhD), we teach international MSc to PhD-level students in inter- to cross-disciplinary research. With a diverse group of teachers (Associate Profs. in marine biology/ecology, public administration, industrial management, and maritime law) students are introduced to ocean-related challenging and urgent problems with numerous causes and effects (‘wicked problems’) and required to discuss solutions that enable coexistence between marine and maritime life and a modern sustainable society. Terminology and basic concepts are discussed as well as practical solutions across disciplines and stakeholder groups. As a hybrid program encompassing research and teaching, I see the GAME at GEOMAR as excellent opportunity for highly motivated MSc students, acquiring competence in global experimental research, but also in working in international teams of young researchers, from project planning, collecting data, to presenting to researchers and the public. Therefore, I have re-initiated GAME at ÅAU, hosting students annually. GAME is now being integrated into the research and teaching strategy at the department/subject.
I have previously taught PhD candidates in a Multi-Stressor workshop at the IAEA Environment Laboratories, Monaco (5 ECTS, PhD), strengthening my skills in teaching at the PhD level, my own skills in experimental and statistical design, and extending my network in climate change ecology. In the university course MNF-bioc-202 Advanced Practical Course in Biological Oceanography at GEOMAR Practical Part A2 – Benthic Ecology (5 ECTS, MSc), I assisted in practical activities on experimental stress ecology, involving students into daily scientific research activities, producing publishable data. Together with a postdoc at the time, I run the course MNF-bioc-332 Current Topics in Marine Ecology II (5 ECTS; seminar: 3 ECTS; MSc), which we adopted and further developed into a very interactive and state-of-the-art university course at GEOMAR. Here, researchers were invited to present on their current (most exciting) research topics, ranging from chemical ecology, bioinvasions, macro and microplastics, plankton ecology, deep sea pelagic food falls and their relevance for open-ocean ecology, to natural analogues in marine systems and multiple-stressor research. To discuss these and to set such topics into wider context, the research lectures were supported by reading, presenting (students talks), and discussing related primary literature and reviews in follow-up seminars. This gave the students an excellent overview into the diverse research field in marine ecology and exercise in scientific talks and in addressing questions to these. I have also taught in two research cruises at the RV Poseidon cruise POS506 (5 ECTS, MSc) and the RV ALKOR cruise AL643 (5 ECTS, MSc), training the wide array of benthic to pelagic sampling techniques (Van Veen grab, to multi- and bongo nets) and benthic and pelagic Baltic Sea to Skagerrak taxonomy of species. The cruses were combined with R lectures for analyzing the datasets acquired and with student exchange with Gothenburg University.
As indicated in the examples above, during my courses, I give strong attention to self-learning and communication skills of students, since I believe this to be a fundamental aspect within research as well as outside academia. Therefore, I motivate students to read and to present scientific articles as well as their basic research results or concepts in forms of short oral or poster presentations. This, if held in smaller groups, increases the self-confidence of students, step by step preparing them for their later careers. In future courses I strive to implement theory and hands-on in scientific writing in form of short scientific assays prepared by the students (with peer-review feedback by student fellows). At the BSc level I see a vivid alteration of teacher- and student-centered teaching methods during standard lectures, to foster the students to independently address new challenges and solve existing problems. Overall, I have realized that students are starting to lack knowledge in basic physiological to ecological theory. Therefore, I place a strong emphasis on learning the fundamental concepts and processes, from cells to organisms, to the ecosystem level. At the more applied side, during my courses, I relate content and objectives to the relevant EU Sustainable Development Goals, making students aware of the defined SDGs as well as understanding their values. Al the end of my courses, I evaluate these and their impact in form of (i) open discussions on the course content as well as teaching methods, followed by (ii) anonymous online questionnaires evaluating, and in the long run improving, my general teaching merits and the particular courses. Overall, I consider basic academic research, combined with novel teaching approaches and insights into current research areas the central and most exciting approaches.
To develop my teaching portfolio and my skills for students’ best learning outcomes, I actively participate in courses such as: Student Workload as part of Course Design, Student Support & SDGs in Curriculum Work, From Lecture to Qualitative Distance Course, Postdoc Summer School Lehren, Führen, Forschen, Entwickeln, Tag der Lehre – Lehre jeden Tag. These courses and workshops have not only enabled insights into the different perspectives of teaching (teacher and student oriented) but also given me a strong toolbox in every-day teaching.
Development of curricula in supervision and teaching
In addition to every-day supervision and teaching, I am, and I was, involved in the development of different university curricula. I was representative of the integrated Marine Postdoc Network (IMAP) at the Kiel Cluster of Excellence The Future Ocean, as well as GEOMAR postdoc representative, and as the latest development, assisting in various GEOMAR and CAU strategies to develop innovative teaching programs, from MSc to the early postdoc career stage. This gave me valuable insights into different aspects of university teaching as well as its benefits, and its limitations in particular. Within ÅAU, I am currently involved into the development of a cross-disciplinary MSc and PhD curriculum (>50 ECTS in total), associated to the profiling area The Sea at ÅAU. The courses and modules encompass: Environmental Governance, Global Environmental Politics, Multi-level Governance, Environmental Governance at the Local Level, Smart and Sustainable Maritime Business, Global Change Biology, Maritime and Coastal Spatial Planning, Policy Processes in the EU, Introduction to Maritime Law, International Environmental Law, as well as Solving Wicked Problems of the Future Ocean (Summerschool). At the subject level, I currently initiated the development of a strategy for BSc and MSC students at Marine Biology at ÅAU for developing strong skills in experimental design and statistics (using the programming environment R), as I see these crucial aspects in scientific research.