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In the Engineering Sciences, the Way Back to University Remains Open

By Judith Jenner

Academics talk about their move from higher education to the private sector.

In the Engineering Sciences, the Way Back to University Remains OpenPreviously something of a lone warrior at university, Ulf Bunge (39) today manages the Calculation and Simulation Department at Semcon Wolfsburg GmbH
Compared to other subject areas, the barriers between university and industry are more permeable in the engineering sciences. Individual projects are bringing the two closer together elsewhere too, but personnel transfers are rare. When Ulf Bunge draws up a project outline for method development for a client together with his staff, it is possible that a university institute will ultimately handle the implementation; the private sector and universities are competing for orders in this area. The aerospace engineer manages the Calculation and Simulation Department at Semcon Wolfsburg GmbH with 30 employees. As an external service provider, the company develops new products mainly for businesses in the automotive industry. Transferring from university to industry after completing a doctorate is common among engineers; the father-of-three, for example, took a detour into the aviation industry before finally landing in Wolfsburg, where his wife works in the civil service.

At university, the topic of possible career paths was openly discussed. "In our faculty it was openly mentioned when someone was planning to transfer, as opposed to the private sector where one would be afraid of harming one's prospects", he says. And why did he switch to the private sector? "I had become a little jaded", he reflects. "I needed a new challenge". For Ulf Bunge, this challenge is associated with a significantly higher workload, but also with a better salary. The 39-year-old barely has any time left to himself. His working day at the company may officially be over at 6:30 pm, but once the children are in bed, Bunge often works a few more hours on his computer at home. If he misses anything, it's the travel and the lectures at conferences. With the TU he travelled as far afield as Shanghai; in his current job he mostly stays in Wolfsburg. "If the conditions were right, I could imagine returning to academic research one day", says Ulf Bunge. More than in climbing a career ladder he is interested in the challenges and the conditions at his workplace and among his colleagues - whether in academia or in industry.

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