Universität Bayreuth, media release No. 002/2021 08. January 2021
Exchange and double doctorate in times of pandemic
Currently, doctoral students Sarah Lentz and Nicholas Chan are pursuing their double doctorates at both the University of Bayreuth and the University of Melbourne in Australia. Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit the duo during a critical phase of their double PhDs. Nevertheless, they have not let themselves be discouraged, but are determined to continue on the path they have chosen. The double doctorates are made possible by the "Joint PhD Programme" between the two universities. The programme is a result of the close cooperation between the two universities arising from the "Bayreuth-Melbourne Colloid / Polymer Network".
The University of Bayreuth and the University of Melbourne (Australia) already agreed on a double PhD agreement, the so-called Joint PhD Programme, in 2016. The agreement resulted from the close cooperation between the two universities within the framework of the DAAD-funded thematic network project "Bayreuth-Melbourne Colloid / Polymer Network".
The first two Bayreuth junior researchers in the network were already able to complete their double doctorates in 2018. Currently, PhD student Sarah Lentz and PhD student Nicholas Chan are pursuing their double degrees at the University of Bayreuth and the University of Melbourne.
Further information is available here: www.melbourne.uni-bayreuth.de
Sarah Lentz and Nicholas Chan are both doing their doctorates as a "researcher tandem" at Bayreuth’s Biomaterials research group led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel, and at the Chemical Engineering research group of the University of Melbourne chaired by Prof. Dr. Greg Qiao. The doctoral students conduct research in the fields of "Chemical Engineering" and "Biomaterials" on the properties of what Prof. Scheibel calls "perhaps the most fascinating protein-based material" to draw inspiration from, spider silk.
For Sarah Lentz, the close collaborationi with her tandem research partner Nicholas Chan is also a plus: "We really complement each other in our research areas and are constantly exchanging ideas on WhatsApp or Skype. For example, we are currently working together on an antimicrobial composite material that is resistant to bacteria and viruses based on the materials we have in Bayreuth and those we produce in Melbourne."
Covid-19 prevents Australian residency, but not joint research
During their double doctorate, the young researchers must spend at least one year at their respective host university. The pandemic has made research at the host university, a core element of the double degree, impossible since March 2020. Indeed, Covid-19 hit the young researchers during a critical phase of their double doctorate. They have, nevertheless, not let themselves be discouraged, but are determined to continue on the path they have chosen. Sarah Lentz had just arrived in Melbourne for her second research stay when she had to break this off due to the pandemic restrictions and return to Bayreuth early. Meanwhile, Nicholas Chan was due to come to Bayreuth at the end of March 2020 for a one-year stay, which he has not been able to take up to date due to the travel restrictions.
Crossing frontiers as part of a doctorate
Thankfully, the participating universities are showing flexibility in view of the exceptional situation and have relaxed the regulations on the minimum length of the required period of stay at the host university. Despite the pandemic, the search for more double PhD candidates continues unabated. For example, the Australian side has announced several scholarships for the Joint PhD Programme with the University of Bayreuth. In return, positions will be made available at the University of Bayreuth for interested young scientists from the field of polymer and colloid research. All those involved are confident that the current doctoral students will soon be joined by other doctoral students who take the requirement of crossing frontiers as part of their doctorate literally.