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Interview with Dr. Karin Walter, research alumna of KIT

Karin Walter has written her doctoral thesis at KIT. Today, she works as Head of research and development in the company Hidrolatina de Chile.
Karin Walter

Karin, thinking back to the time you spent at KIT – what are the positive memories of your doctorate period in Karlsruhe?

Karin Walter: I like to remember the many persons I met. For example, in the shuttle bus to Campus North. The people I met there worked at very different institutes. With some of them, I am still in regular contact. Such relationships make your stay in a country, in which you do not know anybody, a little easier. I also remember the possibility of using devices and instruments, such as the synchrotron on Campus North for catalysis research. In addition, I remember close scientific exchange. The group of Professor Jan Dierk Grunwaldt, to which I belonged, was very active on the international level.

What was the reason for you to work on your doctorate at KIT?

Walter: This had a lot to do with my professor Ximena Garcia. Before I started to study at KIT, I had been involved in one of her projects at the University of Concepción. She also worked on her doctorate in Karlsruhe from 1987 to 1990 with Professor Klaus Hüttinger and she recommended the KIT.

What would you recommend young doctoral students when they come to KIT? Which steps are important to a successful doctorate at KIT?

Walter: The first step is to find a topic, in which you are really interested, since you will be spending a long period of time researching about it. Second, I would suggest to find a group that is supportive and also socially active (helps to connect with the other researchers and students). If you are planning to return to your home country after your studies at KIT, I would suggest finding a topic that will facilitate finding a job afterwards.]
And finally, it is always important to carry on, to withstand difficulties, and to improve every day.

Would you recommend the KIT to junior researchers for their doctorate?

Walter: In comparison to Chilean universities, you have many more possibilities to exchange internationally, and you have access to technologies that you cannot access so easily here: you can use better equipment and exchange experience with researchers and professors from many countries in the world who have different perspectives. I was allowed to go to international and German congresses, and this was very interesting for me. I enjoyed it a lot and it was a good opportunity to network.

As a successful alumna, who graduated from KIT a few years ago, what would you like to hear from KIT to keep in touch and to learn what the university is doing nowadays?

Walter: Particularly now, I’m interested in fields of research other than catalysis. Currently, I’m working in water research, water technologies, reverse osmosis, and in that field in particular I would like to cooperate with KIT and know a bit more about what research KIT is doing in this field.  I would very much appreciate to find ways of cooperation between the company I am currently working for and the university I stayed at in the past.

You are participating in the research alumni conference on renewable energies. Where did you hear about our conference and why did you decide to attend?

Walter: I heard about the conference from the alumni club in Chile and from the International Affairs Unit at KIT. I wanted to participate because I am working in the water field, which is related to renewable energies, for example the use of solar energy for reverse osmosis. Additionally, I was looking forward to exchanging with former KIT alumni and expanding my network here in Chile.

What are your expectations of the conference?

Walter: I think it’s learning what KIT is planning with regard to cooperation with Chile. And also networking, getting to know all the alumni, in particular here in Chile, and finding some potential partnerships.

How do you take care of your contacts to the alumni club here in Chile? How often do you talk to alumni from KIT?

Walter: I constantly talk to alumni with whom I’ve done the doctorate at the same time, we remained friends. At conferences like this, I see other alumni. But in general, I don’t have so much contact or information.

Do you interact with the members of the alumni club in Chile?

Walter: Whenever they send an email, I see it and I always try to stay active. I think it’s a nice opportunity, it’s helpful that they encourage you to take part in these interactions, and it’s a nice chance to see everyone again and update.

From your point of view, what could KIT do to improve its alumni work?

Walter: I think KIT could continue offering conferences like this one. They are an extra motivation for the alumni to meet. KIT could maybe also organize some cooperation’s between alumni clubs from different parts of the world.

If you could send a message to the future students of KIT or the future doctoral researchers from Chile, what  recommendation would you give them to encourage them to come to Karlsruhe and to study or to work on a doctorate?

Walter: I would encourage them to enjoy Karlsruhe also as a city. The size of Karlsruhe is a size that allows you to have connections to others. It’s a student city and very lively. You form a certain type of family with other students there because not so many are from Karlsruhe actually. And looking at the scientific work, Karlsruhe is one of the top universities in Germany and it’s challenging to be part of it. You feel a lot of competition – it’s encouraging and makes you give the best of yourself.