The supervision and topic for the master thesis must be right
Despite being offered the opportunity to cover easier topics at two other companies, Knudsen decided for what he believed to be the most challenging option. "I felt that I would receive the most support at Heraeus." Besides the good expert supervision, Knudsen also receives commensurate remuneration from the company during the Master thesis phase. Zimmermann, who is also able to cover his living costs with his company pay, knows to appreciate the financing. The going is tough for those without any financial support wishing to work on their thesis full-time. However, the most important factors should be an enthusiasm for the topic and a desire to enhance one's appeal to the work market as an expert. Zimmermann also firmly believes that students should not make any major compromises when it comes to the topic for their Master thesis. "If the topic does not knock your socks off, then it won't be any fun to write about - regardless of whether you do so at a company or at university." The industrial engineer also highlights the importance of a structured, concentrated approach for not dissipating one's energies. Even those who make very high demands of themselves should remember that they do not need to re-invent the wheel.
Feedback loops and deadline extensions
A whole semester is scheduled for the Master thesis. To ensure students do not lose sight of their goal during these six months, they should ensure they always keep the rules of play in mind. "There are three parties involved: the professor, the student and the supervisor at the company. The overlap between their mutual interests must be reviewed," Zimmermann describes the special challenge of writing a Master thesis at a company. "Feedback loops are therefore unbelievably important. While regular contact can be demanding, it is essential to make good progress." This is particularly the case if problems should arise with the topic chosen. "The topic should be defined narrowly as quickly as possible," Knudsen advises students who still have their Master thesis before them. The breadth of his chosen topic, the cooperation within the company and the need to complete a final few university courses meant he took a total of seven and a half months to complete his Master thesis. Luckily, this was not a problem for his professors in Copenhagen; in Germany, the deadlines are a lot stricter though. Structuring the topic well and starting to write early on is essential to meeting deadlines.
Kick-start your career with a master thesis
Knudsen joined the two-year trainee programme "Finance & Controlling" at Heraeus in February 2013. "We have a great deal of freedom and are able to decide on the individual stations," praises the 27-year-old, who was able to spend several months with the company in the USA. What's more, when the two years are completed, the prospects of a permanent position are good. Zimmermann, who has just submitted his Master thesis, is already planning his next big step: he wants to write a doctoral thesis within the same project. The framework for his collaboration within the EU-funded project has already been defined. Although the Master thesis phase left Zimmermann's and Knudsen's heads spinning, the writing process stalled and the despair was great, both would definitely choose to write their Master thesis at a company again. For the exciting opportunities this opened up to them were so very great.