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Advent calendar - December 10th - Ursula Schmidt

10 December 2023

In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 10 meet Ursula Schmidt, management assistant for the Device Physics of Complex Materials and Materials Chemistry groups.

Ursula Schmidt
Ursula Schmidt

Altogether we are 8 management assistants supporting the research groups of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, and I am one of them. If you ask us what our core tasks are, you will discover that it varies quite a bit depending on which PIs we work with. In my case it is to view the plenty of emails they receive, answer the ones I can, react to meeting invitations and requests, and of course also to arrange meetings. The scheduling goes by fitting them into a completed jigsaw puzzle also known as an agenda, having to shove the meetings around, and sometimes disappoint people whose appointments have to be postponed or even cancelled. Don’t take it personally, business is business, and a busy life is one ruled by priorities. For the PIs a part of that business is also speaking at conferences, consulting, and networking in all sorts of ways to accomplish a broad variety of goals. All that contains a lot of planning and organizing, which is my job. For example, fixing the travel arrangements and compiling the itinerary with all documents necessary for the journey and place of destination.

One of my favorite tasks is to take care of a smooth landing of new group members and accompanying them on their way. It does not matter whether they be Ph.D. students, guest researchers, Postdocs, tenure trackers, Research Technicians, or of course PIs. The amount of forms that need to be filled out, bureaucratic rules that have to be followed without having any obvious logic and being changed without warning. All that can be quite overwhelming when you begin, let alone when having to deal with a new language and cultural differences. It often remains a challenge, and administration feels like a waste of time and energy. Especially when the reason you join the institute is working with other scientists, learning, doing research, teaching, and so forth. Good that there are management assistants, like I am, who get a kick out of supporting. Us, who enjoy finding answers to organizational questions, and to help get documents, goods and our guests - with all due respect - to the right place at the right time, securing the show to go on.

My absolute favorite, though, is being part of organizing conferences. The planning and organizing itself is gratifying because of all the interaction with others and creating structures until it becomes a complete picture. What makes it even more fun, is to have the chance to learn new tools such as building and hosting a conference website. The moment I find most rewarding is when the conference starts, even when troubleshooting has to be done. Watching people arrive at the venue, some meeting and greeting each other, some totally new to everything and trying to find their way, all registering, gathering information, and then carrying on to where they need to be next. To me it is a delight to know that I am part of making things happen.

Have a jolly good time during the season break and a healthy, happy, and productive year 2024!

Last modified:04 December 2023 2.06 p.m.

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