‘The research opportunities here are unique’

Metropolis Ruhr attracts scientific specialists

Clara Saraceno is a high-potential polyglot and a very attractive prospect for many employers. She was born in Argentina, studied in France, completed her doctorate degree in Switzerland and has worked in Silicon Valley. Today, she lives and does research in Bochum – and this is where she sees her future.

Having recently completed her doctorate, the 34-year-old researcher relocated in 2016 along with her family to do research in the Metropolis Ruhr. At the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, the physicist now works on innovative disc lasers in the Photonics and Ultrafast Laser Science work group in the Faculty for Electrical and Information Engineering.

Bochum – an outstanding research location

The Metropolis Ruhr is one of the densest research landscapes in Europe. ‘People are dynamic here and are very open to change. This is excellent for research,’ says Saraceno. In addition to 22 colleges, there are numerous well-known non-university research institutes based in the Metropolis Ruhr. ‘This enables a unique level of interdisciplinary cooperation,’ Saraceno explains passionately.

International career

After completing her studies in France, the physicist moved to the world of industry when she got a training position at the laser manufacturer Coherent in Silicon Valley. ‘That was a great experience. I learned so much there,’ she recalls. When her trainee programme came to an end in 2008, she returned to Europe and completed her doctorate at ETH Zurich in 2012. There, her professor was very committed to attracting more women to careers in science. She spoke in particularly glowing terms about the research environment at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. ‘That aroused my curiosity,’ Saraceno says.

She subsequently applied for the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award in Bochum – one of the most prestigious research awards in Germany – and won it. Saraceno was then given the opportunity to work on new production procedures for terahertz radiation with a research fund of almost €1.65 million. She then moved to Bochum with her one-year-old son and her husband.

Good work–life balance

‘It’s a very exciting region. We are really happy here,’ Saraceno says, thrilled with her new home. ‘We bought a house in Bochum, which we wouldn’t have been able to afford to do in Switzerland.’ She also thinks that Bochum is a better place to bring up children. ‘Career and family life are very compatible here.’ She takes her son to the day-care centre at the university, and she found a childminder close to the university to look after her other son. ‘When it comes to finding childcare, looking for a house and dealing with paperwork, it’s important to have somebody you can turn to at the beginning who can help you to get settled into your new home,’ says Saraceno. This enables high-potential workers to get started in their new job quickly and smoothly.

welcome.ruhr offers start-up assistance for international applicants

This is exactly where the welcome.ruhr advisory service comes in. It was launched by the Regional Association Ruhr in conjunction with the Business Metropole Ruhr organisation to improve the welcoming culture in the region and address a shortage of skilled workers. With this welcome portal for qualified professionals, the Metropolis Ruhr lends a helping hand to applicants from other countries or regions. Qualified professionals, entrepreneurs, students and researchers can learn all about the important issues affecting business, education, life and work. Ten WelcomeGuides from the business world are available on request, mostly with a migrant background themselves, as personal points of contact to answer any questions about accommodation, childcare, insurance and business formations.

‘In the Ruhr region, there is a long tradition of the immigration of skilled workers,’ says Ilka Cirkel, project manager at the welcome.ruhr portal. ‘Without this type of labour-based migration, the Ruhr region would not be what it is today – neither economically nor socially. People from over 150 different countries live and work here.’ New ideas, scientific approaches and specialists develop innovations and set new industry standards. ‘And this in turn increases the competitiveness of our region.’

Dual Career Netzwerk Ruhr promotes dual careers

Along with welcome.ruhr, there is also the Dual Career Netzwerk Ruhr. When it comes to the recruitment of exceptional researchers, their life partners also play a key role. Dual-career couples are typically highly educated and are very focused on their work. To be successful in the international battle for leading talent, the Dual Career Netzwerk promotes the acquisition and retention of dual-career couples. It assists the partners of newly appointed academic staff in their search for a position in the Metropolis Ruhr, thus contributing to the balance between work and family life. It is based on a network of 20 institutions from the scientific, business and administrative sectors in the Ruhr region.

The researcher Saraceno does not regret her decision to relocate to the Metropolis Ruhr. And she wants to remain here for the long term, as the ‘research opportunities here are unique’. Thanks to the tenure-track structure, a professorship programme for young researchers, she has the opportunity to become a permanent professor in Bochum after her research project.