Podcast: Play in new window
In September 2018 Tina Persson attended the annual Max Planck alumni meeting in Berlin and had a chance to speak with the professor for Applied Mathematics and Physics Dr. Magda Schiegl.
Magda Schiegl made her PhD in Theoretical Plasma Physics at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in 1996 and then had a long career in the financial and energy industry. In 2009 she decided to come back to science and teaching, but this time, instead of theoretical plasma physics research, she chose the practical field of Risk Management and Applied Mathematics. She got a professorship position at the University of Applied Science in Cologne and later moved to Landschut, Germany.
In this interview, Magda reflects upon how her experience as a PhD influenced her career and shares a tip on how to combine interests for the industry and practical problems with the passion for scientific research and education.
Tina: So welcome! This is Tina Persson from PhD Career Stories, founder of the podcast. And I’m visiting the Max Planck annual alumni meeting for alumnis and early career researchers. It is the third time I’m here, and it’s also the third time I’m meeting a professor Magda Schiegl. And today, I have the pleasure to have her here for a interview and just shortly before that – a small introduction:
Magda Schiegl is a professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Landshut. And she’s teaching in math and physics and [is] doing science in risk management in the finance engineering industry. She performed her Max Planck studies in Garching, in plasma physics between 1993 and 1996. So, Magda, very welcome to this short interview here at Harnack-House in Berlin!
Magda: Yes thank you, Tina!
Tina: How are you?
Magda: Thank you I’m fine, everything is okay, the surrounding is lovely and the symposium is great!
Tina: That’s great! I also think it’s a great symposium, and we know that. We are sitting here in the cellar actually, and waiting for the Saturday evening with some great music and good food. They always have that here. So, I’m going to ask you the first question here: Magda, why did you start a PhD from the beginning?
Magda: I was very interested in science! And after my studies in physics and my diploma thesis, I found it a little bit superfluous – the much effort and work I put into scientific learning and thinking – to surrender that and go to industry. So I decided to do a PhD work and actually changed the topic between my diploma thesis and my PhD thesis.
Tina: Thank you. And if you look on your successful career today, being a teacher and doing fantastic – I was at your workshops, and I didn’t understand much of the formulas you had on the wall regarding risk management and so – but when you look on your PhD studies, what is the single most important skill that you think you have learned?
Magda: I think it’s the skill to overcomes difficulties and to look and move beyond one’s own borders.
Tina: How did you do that? Is that in math and physics that you’re moving your mind beyond borders?
Magda: Yes, of course it’s dependent on the subject, yes.
Tina: Do you think you would be as successful as you are today if you did not have a PhD?
Magda: No, I do not think so. Not so much due to the title as such, but due to the personal development. The things I’ve learnt, yes, on methodologies, on going through difficulties and things like that.
Tina: So, if you look back here – What advice would you give your past you?
Magda: Be self-confident! [That] would be the most important advice, I think.
Tina: …to believe in yourself and your own abilities. And this is the third time you are coming and visiting this alumni event; and we met the first time in 2016: What does this Max Planck alumni network mean for you?
Magda: It’s a great network for me, with plenty of connections and plenty of fields, and a variety of fields, and especially [the possibility] to meet again with very good friends.
Tina: Yes, we are a group of, I don’t know, could it be group of 20-30 people that come every year so far?
Magda: Yeah, maybe a little bit more? 40 to 50?
Tina: 40 to 50? That is a core team coming for sure! And you probably, as I – we continue with this networking after the meetings and in between the meetings. What do you think you did not learn during your PhD?
Magda: I think all these soft skill topics, especially self-management would have been very helpful. A little bit more of self-awareness in the positive sense. I have been self-aware but more in the negative sense, which is a typical woman topic, which I learned much later. And this marketing and branding, self-marketing – things like that – which would have been very helpful.
Tina: And now, I know that I’m improvising a little bit with the question but you visited my workshop…
Tina: Can you see correlations from that workshop, the assessments we did, and your work?
Magda: Yes, yes of course. These kinds of workshops would have been very helpful if I would have had the possibility to visit such workshops as a PhD student. I think I would have performed in another way in my early career, I’m quite sure [of it] at this point. And as we’ve seen in the workshops lately, we deal with some similar things. You more on a practical level, and I try to transform this practical level to computer code and learn something about the variety of behavioural attitudes of persons.
Tina: Yeah, and I think that is amazing because – just to explain for the people listening here [what] my workshop was: We perform personality assessment and self-awareness training. We were playing with lumina cards and it was pretty obvious that many attending there were actually very, very different personalities. And I know that both you Magda and I, we are very different and we are kind of opposites and that’s interesting. Because in that sense, we actually need each other. I can sell you, and you for sure can correct many things that I am doing and mistaking.
I have a last question for you on this very short interview, and that is to the followers that we have, we have pretty many followers [from] all over the world, and that is: what advice you would give to other PhDs that wants to have a job like you – being a teacher in math, physics or work in risk management.
Magda: We have, in Germany here, the universities of applied sciences and professors have to have a career in industry, not in academia, but in industry. They have to have a PhD, or it makes things simpler if they have a PhD. Otherwise they have to prove that they are able to work scientifically. So they have to have this first book in science (=PhD thesis). And afterwards, during their industry career, they have to show that they follow science, write papers, or something like that. I additionally changed the topic after my PhD, again, to actuarial science, insurance mathematics and risk management. And afterwards, after some practitioner years, you can apply for a professorship in university of applied sciences.
Tina: Thank you very much Magda Schiegl for your a superb advice here. It’s Tina here, reporting from Hanukkah house and that was Magda Schiegl, professor at the Applied Science University in Landshut in Germany. Thank you very much, Magda.
Magda: You are welcome, Tina!