Sebnem Rusitschka on her work as a computer scientist in the research and development department at Siemens.
© Siemens AGPeer-to-peer technology (P2P) - networking equally ranked computers and creating the corresponding communication architectures - is her area of expertise. 29-year-old computer scientist Sebnem Rusitschka works as a research scientist at Siemens in Munich.
academics: From university to the research and development department of a corporation. For many, that's a huge leap. How did you get started there?
Sebnem Rusitschka: It resulted naturally from my biography. During my undergraduate degree I worked in the corporate technology department at Siemens as a student trainee. I started there in 2001, in my very first semester at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Before that I studied economics and computer science in the USA, at Mount Holyoke College. That was my introduction to programming. I immediately knew this was something brilliant.
academics: Did you consider staying the USA?
Rusitschka: Even back then there were a lot of digital natives in the USA, born Internet users with the corresponding know-how, lots of competition. At the same time, getting a student visa involved a huge amount of bureaucratic effort. As the child of Turkish teachers in Germany I had been through all that once already. I decided to return to Germany - also because of the excellent opportunities there - and found an interesting and challenging role at Siemens.
academics: What is your opinion of Germany as a location for research?
Rusitschka: Germany is great, especially in the new technologies, and offers excellent career opportunities for researchers. The development of the EU is creating additional perspectives for scientists. An example: distribution networks for renewable energies are being developed Europe-wide. The basic training at German universities is also very sound. Contact with the world of work is however important. Not everything can be learnt at university.
academics: As a scientist, you have chosen to work in a business, why?
Rusitschka: Here I have the opportunity to accompany a new product from development to market launch and work in my area of interest. As a student trainee I was already involved in P2P technology and the development of communication protocols for distributed systems. Peer-to-peer is an alternative to client-server architecture where the connected end devices - mobile phones, laptops or PCs - have equal rights. Each can retrieve data from any of the others. That they are not dependent on the functioning of a central server when transferring data makes P2P connections more reliable. At the same time they are more affordable, because they don't require the purchase of a server.
academics: Do you see differences in how companies and universities work?
Rusitschka: The viewpoint is different. In a business my thinking is profit-oriented - that is, I try to create added value and keep costs down. At the same time of course I can point out new ways of doing things as a researcher in industry. For example, I can show how renewable energies can be affordably managed. I feel very free in my workflows. The option of flexible working hours gives me time to work at the computer in the evenings. My job is also my hobby.
academics: What are you currently working on?
Rusitschka: I've been working on the Smart Grid, the 'electricity grid', for about one and a half years. In grid computing, equally ranked computers are also combined in order to jointly solve tasks more affordably. New communication technologies will contribute to making the electricity network more efficient. The aim is to deliver precisely the amount of energy required to precisely where it is needed. The required information is retrieved at defined nodes within the network. Local producers, such as houses with solar panels, can report surpluses and feed them into the network. Software modules in the communicating peers co-ordinate energy distribution. It is also possible to measure individual usage via digital meters and adapt energy generation accordingly. The data are transferred in an anonymised manner; networking between the communicating end devices is defined via protocols.
academics: Are there role models that inspire you in your career?
Rusitschka: Definitely Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web. There are also examples for me in my environment. Managers or colleagues, simply smart people with good ideas, role models who help me develop my own talents. At the same time they show me how much is possible.
academics :: July 2009