#085: Ben Hartwig Story

In this podcast, Dr. Ben Hartwig shares his story and lessons he learned during his PhD. 

Ben is a German scientist, entrepreneur and actor. He studied genetics at the Max-Planck Institute in Cologne, specialised in Epigenetics and aside he toured with Germany’s biggest improv theater, Springmaus, for the past six years. He has performed, directed and created close to a thousand shows on five continents. Three years ago, he founded his own company Neuroblitz to combine science and applied improvisation in workshops, speeches and seminars.

Two hearts are beating in my chest, the first one is the heart of an actor, someone who goes on stage to tell stories, the second heart is the heart of a scientist, someone who tries to make discoveries to understand the world better and tell stories.

Dr. Ben Hartwig

If you are curios how Ben successfully combined his analytical and creative side together, please listen to this episode. If you also have a story to be told or if you know someone, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Enjoy Listening!


Transcript

Intro:

Hello and welcome to PhD career stories, my name is Alice Corani, and in today’s podcast you will listen to Ben Hartwig, a German Scientist passionate with Science and Acting. He will explain how he successfully combined his analytical and creative side together.

Two hearts are beating in my chest, the first one is the heart of an actor, someone who goes on stage to tell stories, the second heart is the heart of a scientist, someone who tries to make discoveries to understand the world better and tell stories.

This is my story. My name is Ben Hardwick, I’m a German scientist born and raised close to Hamburg who has done his PhD at the Max Planck institute for plant breeding research in Cologne. This is also a story of those two hearts because I’m fascinated by the creative world and by the analytical world and how to combine the two.

At first glance, there’s not much that combines acting and science, not much that the two have in common. But there are a few things, as an actor you need to stay curious, as a scientist you need to do so too. And ultimately, we all want to understand ourselves and the world better, so curiosity and understanding are the glue between creativity and the analytical world to me.

Curiosity is also what got me into science. I’ve always been fascinated by it, by the world and by people. I chose plant biotechnology as my studies during the bachelor and masters. I signed up at the Leibniz university in Hannover. For part of the master’s I studied at the Purdue University in the US in West Lafayette, Indiana. During the masters I had a professor called professor Daimler, and he was the first reason why I got into my PhD. He thought it would be the next right career step for me and suggested the Max plank in Cologne, because he had gone there earlier.

I decided to follow his advice in the plight and actually found my supervisor because we had a beer together during the selection days. My supervisor during the PhD was Francisco Torque who is an expert in epigenetics. I had no idea about epigenetics when I signed up, but today I can roughly explain it as how the environment influences our genes. Epigenetics makes that influence visible, that was great. I got to study plants and I got to understand epigenetics better. I got to immerse myself into a subject for a long time and I wanted to know if I could do it, so I love the challenge of being a PhD student. But I didn’t know what I would do afterwards. So when the time to defend this thesis came, I had already booked a ticket to fly around the world and interview actors and scientists because I still had two hearts beating in my chest throughout my PhD. 

And also early I had done acting and actually learned something called improvised theater or improvisation, it’s a type of theater where you walk on stage without a script or fixed role so you walk out there every night and you don’t know what the play is going to be. Both science and acting were passions of mine and on that journey around the world I wanted to discover which way to follow, what should I do with my life.

I had learned a few things during my PhD that helped me on that journey. The first thing was organization, Francisco Torque decided that I could do an enhancer suppresses screen, well I was in-charge of thousands and thousands of plants. I had to be very organized to not lose track of all of the individual plants and their individual mutations. 

The second thing I learned was resilience, one day I came into the lab and most of my plants that I was studying had died because of a technical error in the green house. I was devastated and thought oh my god so much work and it all went down the drain because of one thing. But I had a friend in the laboratory from China and he used to say a Chinese saying which roughly translates to “When winter comes is spring faraway?”. When I heard him say that I thought of course he’s right. The plants were dead, but I still had the seeds and I still had the knowledge, so I could continue the project and I didn’t have to be that devastated about it. That was the second thing, resilience. 

The third thing I learned, that was big for me during the PhD was network. During lunch breaks and sometimes in the afternoon, I had a coffee with my friend Jared Rolands, who also did his PhD at the same time at the Max plank. We became friends and we used to go for long walks and talks science. He was in a protein lab and I was in the molecular biology lab. And sure enough during our PhD journey I sometimes needed advice about proteins and he needed advice about molecular biology. We helped each other and I believe that made our PhDs much stronger and better than they would have been.

So I was on that journey in 2012 and I had scheduled interviews with scientists and with actors to find out, what to do afterwards. The journey didn’t really give me an answer but it opened up new opportunities. So I was allowed to travel with a company, selling sequencers in Southeast Asia as well. And all that combined knowledge, let me to understand that I don’t have to choose one or the other but I could try to combine the analytics with the creativity. And after my post doc, I decided to found my own company in science communication, where I combined my knowledge from improvisational theater and from science to help creative people think in the more analytical way and analytical people to think in a more creative way. 

This work fulfils me and it really feels like the two hearts in my chest are starting to combine in a becoming one. What drives me and what has driven me is that moment of discovery, there’s always more to discover but that moment of discovery is unique, that moment of really understanding something. I love to really understand something for the first time to have that realization myself but I also love seeing it in others. Nowadays when I teach and give workshops and see that realization on a person’s face that is something unique and beautiful.

Thank you for listening and have a great day this was Ben Hardwick.

Outro:

Thank you for listening to another episode of PhD Career Stories.

If you like our podcast you can follow us on our website PhDcareerstories.com or subscribe to our page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter. 

That’s it for today, thank you and see you in two weeks

#084: Sonia Jaeger Story

Sonia Jaeger is German-French psychologist, psychotherapist, and PhD.

She has been living a location independent life as a digital nomad for the past four years while working as an online therapist, providing online counselling to expats and other globally mobile clients in German, French, and English.

After finishing her PhD she decided to take a break and travel the world. However, instead of returning home afterwards she decided to start an online private counseling practice and has been traveling the world ever since.

In 2018 alone she went to (and worked from) 12 different countries, from Australia to Europe all the way to Latin America. Currently, she has not only started to mentor other psychotherapists who want to work online but also facilitates workshops that broach the issues of mental health while living globally.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drsoniajaeger/
Website: https://www.sonia-jaeger.com

Continue reading “#084: Sonia Jaeger Story”

#083: Matt Hotze Story

Matt Hotze graduated with a doctorate in Environmental Engineering from Duke University in 2008 and he is currently Administrative Director at Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Engineering Research Center.

From his story, you will learn how almost failing the GRE exam brought him to the managing position he has now and how to apply business principles in academia and life. 

Matt also shares his experience with the dual-career challenge that many PhD couples face after their graduation and offers good advice on how to find a job and keep a relationship at the same time. 

By understanding people and how you interact with them you can improve your results, your research results.

Matt Hotze, PhD in Environmental Engineering

Continue reading “#083: Matt Hotze Story”

#082: Pearl Osirike Story

In this episode Pearl Osirike shares her story and some of the most important lessons she has learned during her PhD so far.  Pearl is a biochemist with an interest in drug discovery and infectious diseases. She holds a first-class degree and a masters degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria, where she also serves as an Assistant Lecturer. Currently, she is a second year PhD student of Molecular and Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases at the West African Centre for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana. 

Pearl is passionate about teaching and research and she is excited to share her story to motivate and inspire others. 

As a PhD student, the workload is vast, so I have learnt to break down enormous tasks into smaller, chewable sizes for effectiveness and to celebrate each small victory along the way. I find that each little victory gives me the strength to push on when the going gets tough.

To learn more about Pearl’s story, please listen to this episode. If you also have a story to be told or if you know someone, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Enjoy Listening!


Continue reading “#082: Pearl Osirike Story”

#079: Presenting the team: Nika and Alice Stories

In this episode two member of PhD Career Stories team, Alice and Nika, talk about their experience during PhD, earned skills and their career after PhD. They also talk about how they joined PhD Career Stories podcast. 

Alice is currently working in the healthcare organization in Sweden and She believes her PhD skills like “science communication” helped her to get to her job. 

Alice also shares what she has learned during coaching seasons by Tina Persson:

“It helped me not to be stuck at some point and think a bit forward to see that one experience doesn’t build all your personality…”. 

Nika is going to start her new career path as postdoc at Columbia University in New York City. She believes one of the major skills that she learned during her PhD is scheduling meetings from all over the world with a time difference.

In this episode you can also listen to Alice and Nika ‘s tips regarding job interview as both have gone through many job interviews before getting their dream jobs.

Continue reading “#079: Presenting the team: Nika and Alice Stories”

#078: Michalina Lewicka-Yammine Story

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Michalina Lewicka-Yammine‘s passion for Neuroscience evolved during her master degree at the Jagiellonian University and her exchange studies at Uppsala University which led her to a PhD degree at Karolinska Institute in Developmental Neuroscience. 

After graduation, her passion for marketing got her engaged with three startups and establishing her own consultancy firm. At Karolinska Institute she worked as a course leader and later as a project manager at the Alumni Office. 

Throughout that journey Michalina gained many new experiences as well as gave birth to two children, and found her way to balance between being a mother and delivering and performing at work. 

Nowadays, Michalina is raising two kids, running a freelance consultancy and has a full-time job as a product manager at Spiber Biomaterial – all powered by the stamina and resilience gained from motherhood.

Connect with Michalina on LinkedIn and Twitter

 

I’m still having my own company and doing some small projects. On the side I’m working fifty percent for a biotech company and fifty percent on maternity leave. As I said, don’t give up! Try it! And see if it’s for you and if you don’t like it, try something else and try from a different angle – try to find your balance and what suits you the most.

Dr. Michalina Lewicka-Yammine, mother, freelancer and product manager at Spiber Biomaterial.

Continue reading “#078: Michalina Lewicka-Yammine Story”

#077: Anne Schreiter Story


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Anne-Portrait-20-01.pngAnne Schreiter advocates for researchers and scientists. At the German Scholars Organization she and her team offer guidance and programs to help PhDs on their career path – in academia and beyond. In this episode Anne talks about why she believes in planned coincidences and what question turned out to be the tipping point for her career.

Anne holds a PhD in Organization Studies and Cultural Theory from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Berkeley. She studied Communication in Social and Business Contexts and Sociology in Berlin before embarking on a year long adventure in China.

Today she lives and works in Berlin again.

You can connect with Anne on LinkedIn and Twitter. She shares posts on science policy, leadership topics, and occasionally also on the odd and curious.

 

Whether you want to become a professor or do something else, it helps to make yourself visible and heard. And after a while you won’t have to chase opportunities, but instead they will present themselves to you.

Dr. Anne Schreiter, Executive Director at German Scholars Organization e.V.

Continue reading “#077: Anne Schreiter Story”