Meet the people: Andrea Kirsch

Today we will present Andrea Kirsch. She attended the 27th Annual Meeting of the German Crystallographic Society (DGK) in march in Leipzig. In the poster session she presented her theme Size-dependent structural, spectroscopic and thermoanalytic properties of nano- to poly-crystalline Bi2Fe4O9 and was awarded with a prize. Below she will tell us about herself and her experiences.

How did you end up in Material Science?

Actually by accident. During the 4th semester of my bachelor studies in Biomedical Engineering I had the chance to take part in a summer school on „Human Centred Approaches in Biomedical Engineering“. In this school, modules on „Nanomaterials“ and „Implant materials“ were offered. Without any expectations I attended them and was impressed on how the materials structure can affect the properties. From that moment on, I turned my studies in a direction of material development. My bachelor thesis I wrote at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM Bremen in the field of biocompatible materials. I stayed at the institute as a student assistant for a total of 4.5 years and completed my master studies in Materials Chemistry, Physics and Mineralogy with a focus on crystallography and materials analysis at the University of Bremen. After that, I started my PhD in the Solid State Chemical Crystallography group of Prof. Thorsten Gesing in the Chemistry department of the University.

Does the poster represent the full extent of your work or is there even more about it – for example a greater context inside the team?

The poster represents a part of my dissertation. During my PhD studies, I was mainly involved with the synthesis and structure-property relationships of multiferroic bismuth ferrates. I studied the crystallization behaviour of Bi2Fe4O9 under varying synthesis conditions as well as the resulting properties of the materials. Luckily, I have the chance to continue these studies from Novemeber on in the group of Dr. Kirsten Jensen at the University of Copenhagen.

What fascinates you about investigating material properties?

I really like the idea of „materials by design“. If we could understand in detail how inorganic nanocrystals form and grow from solution and how the resulting structure can be controlled, the materials science community would probably do a big step forward. Properties could be studied in a controlled manner and functional materials be designed very efficiently. I am especially interested in nanocrystalline and metastable materials, strong correlated systems and unusual properties such as multiferroism. The combination of different properties in composites is also very exciting.

What was the biggest difficulty you faced during your work/thesis?

I guess the biggest difficulty I faced was, that I was many times not really sure where all this hard work would really lead to. I always loved science but I also knew that staying in academia is very critical. The situation for scientists is really bad in my opinion. Unsafe jobs, small salaries and a law limiting your possibilities to get employed after 6 years. So, I was always struggling if all this hard work will be worth it in the end. I guess most PhD students face the same problems and it is really difficult to deal on the one hand all this ‚emotional problems‘ and on the other hand the anyway difficult scientific issues you need to solve. On top of this, you only get a half position (at least in chemistry).

For further information about her theme, you can also read: