The role of Prof. Dr. Valentin Wittmann, chemistry professor at the University of Constance and academic dean, includes providing answers to organisational and content-related questions relating to the chemistry and life sciences courses at Constance University. Another part of his job involves solving potential problems and he is also the point of contact for students and school pupils who are interested in the courses. Martina Keller-Ullrich spoke with Professor Wittmann on behalf of BIOLAGO, discussing the shift from diploma to bachelor and master’s study programmes.
Since all bachelor courses, no matter which discipline, comprise 180 credits (1 credit = 30 work hours), we are obliged to reduce practical education. This kind of levelling out is not useful. We put great emphasis on practical education, i.e. laboratory work, which carries more weight in Germany than in many other European countries. Only recently, I received a letter from a couple of students who were concerned about the lack of practical knowledge of foreign students who come to us for their advanced studies. Lack of experience could represent a risk because students have to handle dangerous substances.
This may be the case for some disciplines, but certainly not for chemistry. Life science students have to do eight weeks of vocational training. But students find it difficult to find a suitable place because a student who only stays in a company for eight weeks often means more work than benefit for the company itself. To alleviate this situation we also recognise practical training periods at research institutions.
Yes, in the USA many students start with their PhD directly after their bachelor’s degree at the same time as registering for other courses. We have recently introduced a similar model here in Constance: the “Fast Track” – this enables students with an excellent bachelor’s degree to do a doctorate without having to do a master’s first. This project is part of the “Chemical Biology” graduate school that Constance established as part of the German government’s excellence initiative. Initially, the PhD students attend master’s courses for a year, but they do not have to do a master’s degree thesis, which saves them about nine months’ work.
Further information:Faculty of ChemistryUniversity of ConstanceFach M 70978457 KonstanzTel.: +49 (0)7531 88-4572Fax: +49 (0)7531 88-4573E-mail: valentin.wittmann(at)uni-konstanz.de