MPA Career Seminar (CarSem)

What does it take to win a permanent research position as a professor in astronomy and astrophysics? What are more generally the career opportunities in academia, and what are the chances to realize them? What is your plan B if you don't succeed? Is a research position in academia even your goal?

The MPA Career Seminar provides a forum for the discussion of these and other relevant questions. Astronomers and scientists who have had a stint in academia and either found a permanent research position in academia or made a change of career and now work in other fields, e.g., in the private sector, industry and consulting, talk about their experience with the job market.

Feel free to contact Daniel Pumpe (dpumpe/at/ for more information and opportunities to participate in the seminar and its organization. This seminar is currently organized by Seyit Hocuk (MPE), Malin Renneby (MPA), Leonard Burtscher (MPE), and Amy Jones (MPA). Previous organizers include Andreas Pawlik, Richard D'Souza, Margherita Molaro, Nitya Hariharan, Sebastian Dorm, Maksim Greiner, Maxime Viallet (all MPA), and Jan Grieb (MPE).

Seminar schedule

2017, September 12th, 5pm Dr. Matthias Aicher (Manger at d-fine GmbH): Physicists in the area of risk & finance

With over 600 specialists in financial and risk management for banks, insurers, corporates and asset managers, d-fine is one of Europe's leading consulting firms. As an international company with offices in Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Vienna and London, we are equally at home advising major global banks, medium-sized corporates, international insurance groups and small hedge funds. d-fine has amassed tremendous experience over the course of hundreds of projects ranging from strategic consulting and methodology development through to process design and the implementation of solutions on the IT side. As such, we cover the entire range of services expected of a modern consulting firm. In the lecture “Physicists in the area of risk & finance”, Dr. Matthias Aicher will talk about d-fine, provide examples of the daily work at a consultancy and explain why physicists (m/f) have ideal prerequisites for a career at d-fine.

Previous seminars

2016, September 13th, 5pm Dr. Rene Fassbender (CEO and Founder OmegaLambdaTec GmbH): Astrophysics goes Business - new Career Opportunities in Data Science Slides

The booming field of Data Science has opened up great new career opportunities for research astrophysicists. Key fields of the digital future such as Smart City, Smart Factory, Smart Mobility, and Smart Energy all rely on the ability to properly analyze large amounts of data and develop the necessary analysis methods & tools. In this talk, I will discuss my transition from astrophysics to the real business world and the experiences in building up the Startup company OmegaLambdaTec - Data Science Services. I will also discuss the Data Science job market in Munich and permanent job opportunities for excellent astrophysicists.

2016, May 10th, 5pm Dr. Jonathan Elliott (ADS): Astrophysics Data System: Beyond "^Author" Slides

The Astrophysics Data System abstract service is used by around 50,000, daily, by researchers and librarians like yourselves. We provide search facilities to over 11 million documents from the fields of Astronomy, Physics, and Geophysics, covering all refereed articles from the past 20 years. Despite the 1992-HTML vibe of the ADS Classic interface, there is a team of engineers and curators behind the scenes currently rebuilding the infrastructure of the ADS systems. I will speak about the experience and tools needed to work in the role as a software engineer, the transition I made from research in astrophysics, and the possibilities in the current climate.

2016, April 19th, 5pm Dr. Michal Maciejewski (Altran/BMW) Slides

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is the field where automotive companies are investing most of their money, because it is clear it will revolutionize the future of how we travel. I will talk about the R&D we are doing at Altran with cooperation with BMW. Particularly I will mention our contribution on making the newest BMW 7 Series car, which internally are the G11 and G12 models, follow up with BMW i8 mirrorless car presented at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. Finally, I would like to show my perspective about the future in the industry.

2016, January 19th, 5pm Harald Jenull & Franz Pfeiffer: Be Entrepreneurial! Slides

Harald Jenull is Manager for Technology Transfer at UnternehmerTUM GmbH, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation at TUM, and presents entrepreneurial opportunities for scientists. The challenges of technology-driven Business Models will be discussed and as best practice Professor Franz Pfeiffer from the Chair of Biomedical Physics at TUM tells his own experiences as a founder out of the university.

2015, December 8th, 5pm Dr. Timo Schirmer (GE Global Research)

Dr. Timo Schirmer has a PhD in physics and is manager of the Diagnostics, Imaging and Biomedical Technologies Laboratory at GE Global Research in Garching. With his team of about 30 full time scientists and early stage researchers, he is primarily responsible for the development of new diagnostic imaging technologies. Dr. Schirmer will be presenting a short summary of his own career, the work at his lab and talk about how to manage your career in an industrial environment

2015, November 10th, 5pm Dr. Florian Siebel (German Patent Office)

With the European Patent Office, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office and the German Federal Patent Court, there are three major patent authorities of Europe located in Munich. All these authorities employ physicists. Other physicists work as patent attorneys, writing patent applications for their clients. I will give a short introduction into the patent system and describe the daily work as a patent examiner at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. Understanding patent applications, searching for prior art and deciding whether a patent can be granted, requires analytical skills and some legal background.

2015, July 7th, 5pm Dr. Franco Ciaraldi-Schoolman: Thermal management of car engines at BMW

BMW is one of the worldwide known companies that develop and produce premium cars. The company offers a great variety of jobs for physicists and engineers, such as developing, constructing and testing various vehicle components. Currently, I am working for the R&D department („Entwicklung Antrieb“), where I determine the temperature profile of car engines under certain physical conditions. For this, I perform three-dimensional CFD simulations that include thermal conductivity processes. In my talk, I will give you an overview of my daily work, my experiences in the industry and present some differences between working at MPA and BMW.

2015, June 2nd, 3pm Carolin Hormuth (SAP) and Felix Hormuth (MPIA): Our way from astronomy to software development at SAP - and back for one of us Slides Carolin Slides Felix

Carolin: SAP is Europe's biggest software company for business software. This company is a great work place for physicists. I will present my current job at SAP as a senior Developer. One of my tasks is analyzing complex software issues reported by customers and provide corrections for it. For this task the good analytical skills which physicists generally bring are strongly needed. Part of my daily job is software research and development, too. I will also show you other areas at SAP where physicists might work.

Felix: When I found myself stuck in a PhD thesis which I did not really like, I decided to give work at SAP a try. I’ll give an account of my experiences and why I think that it is an interesting option for scientists who consider to change profession. But of course I will also tell you why finally I went back again to a job closer to astronomy. You’ll hear some details about my current position in the middle of the triangle science / engineering / management. This proves to be a rewarding alternative to a purely customer oriented or purely academic job.

2015, Apr. 14, 5pm Dr. Michele Cappetta (PhD at MPE): The roots of thinking and movement - also between fields of research
Did you ever think about leaving Astronomy for a different research field? How do the other fields look like in the eyes of an astrophysicist? Is the missing background a crucial point when moving to a completely different type of research? Will you miss telescopes, galaxy fields, spectra and simulations? In this talk I will describe my experience in joining a biological and medical environment for postdoctoral research. Back in my days as a PhD candidate, I was searching for extrasolar planets capable to host life. Now I switched to a very different research project where I decipher the activity and the structure of the neuronal networks in the brain, trying to understand how they create movements, instinctive reactions and even thoughts. Which is the coolest?
2015, Feb. 3, 2pm Dr. Kim Nilsson: Data Science – the sexiest job of the 21st century?
Analytical PhDs have excellent skills for the UK job market, but often struggle to make the transition. In this presentation I will talk about how I went from being an Astronomer to an Entrepreneur, helping other PhDs find work. I will share my experiences of how to find jobs, how to apply for them and how to interview successfully. I will then go on to discuss a particular career, that of data science. Data science has been hailed as the “sexiest job in the 21st century” and it is a job market that is set to grow exponentially in the next five to ten years with rewarding salaries following. I will explain what a data scientist does, what skills are necessary, and why it is an excellent career path for analytical graduates and post-graduates. I will go through the basics of data science, and give examples of how data science is used in businesses. I will also give advice on how you can prepare for these careers, and how you can improve your chances of getting hired. With a special guest appearance by Ole Moeller-Nilsson, ex-Astronomer and MPA Alumnus turned professional software developer.
2014, Dec. 16 Dr. Hanna Kotarba (ZDF, Redaktion Naturwissenschaft+Technik, PhD at LMU): Turning science into stories.
Science is not only the work on a particular topic, science is a way to approach things. A scientist wants to know whatever the result is. On contrary, most no\ n-scientists need a strong reason to get interested. This difference makes it so difficult to get a non-scientific audience interested in scientific topics and work.\ However, there is one single reason which is a strong reason for virtually all people: a good story. But how to turn science into stories? In this talk, I will overview the main tools of storytelling, the daily work of a science journalist, the main difficulties scientists are confronted with turning to \ journalism and the reasons why this work is nevertheless rewarding.
2014, Oct 14 Dr. Fabian Miczek (PhD at MPA): Developing simulation technology for Multi-Body Systems at SIMPACK
SIMPACK is a general purpose Multi-Body Simulation (MBS) software used for the dynamic analysis of any mechanical system, such as cars, engines, trains or wind turbines. For SIMPACK, I develop new simulation methods and help to maintain and extend the existing solver technology. In this talk, I will present how I found this job, how my daily work looks like and why numerical simulations in classical mechanics can be a truely fascinating and challenging topic to work on.
2014, June 17 Dr. Jutta Huebner (PhD at MPIA): Direct link to space - Mission operations made in Germany
Working at ESA’s European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt and operating space missions is truly fascinating. The international & interdisciplinary mix of people and the great team spirit at ESOC provide a unique environment. In this talk I will give an insight into working at ESA, operating space missions and the challenges of an 11 year old mission.
2014, May 13 Dr. Ioanna Arka (PhD at MPIK): Jobs for Astronomers (or else: is there life after academia?)
A significant percentage of Astronomy/Astrophysics PhDs will eventually look for employment in non-academic fields. However, our academic training little prepares us for this step, which can be crucial for our future careers. This is why the initiative "Jobs for Astronomers" was created: to inform about non-academic careers through various resources and to provide a platform of communication and exchange between astronomers inside and outside academia. In this talk, I will discuss alternative careers suitable for astronomers/astrophysicists, as well as point out the need for a more spherical, "real world" training of today's students, many of whom will be tomorrow's (non-academic) job seekers.
2014, Apr 11 Dr. Jens Dobrindt (ex-MPQ), Dr. Hauke Engel (ex-MPE), and Dr. Daniel Haertl (ex-MPP): Careers in Consulting.
A seminar by a team of consultants from McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company is the "biggest pure consulting firm in the world" (, providing strategic advice to corporations and other organizations in over 50 countries.
2014, Feb 25 Dr. Mona Frommert (PhD at MPA): "From Astro To Medical Software Engineering"
I work as a software developer in the algorithmic team at Brainlab. Brainlab is a company that develops software for physicians (navigation software for image-controlled surgeries, radiation software etc). In my team we work on algorithms for segmentation (which means decomposing an image into several components, e.g. a body scan into the different organs) and for fusion (overlapping 2 images as accurately as possible). Our algorithms are being used in virtually all products that Brainlab sells.
2014, Jan 28 Dr. Ewald Müller (MPA): "Careers in Academia"
Presentation and informal discussion with Dr. Ewald Müller, joined by Prof. Eiichiro Komatsu, Prof. Guinevere Kauffmann, Prof. Simon White, and Dr. Fabian Schmidt