The SEE department has just welcomed Prof. Dr Anke Weidlich as the co-director! She took over the position from Prof. Dr Leonhard Reindl after his retirement.
We have interviewed with her during our welcome BBQ. She was so kind as to spare us some time and bring her students and crew to network with us. The 20-person gathering took place outdoors per the COVID-19 regulations in our location. We met people from different backgrounds who dedicated their studies and careers to improving renewable energy technologies.
Dear Prof. Dr Weidlich, thank you so much for your time, so my first question is about how you ended up here! Why and how did you become SEE’s director?
At the Technical Department, a new institute was founded a few years ago, the Institut für Nachhaltige Technische Systeme (INATECH) which translates to Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering. I became a professor in this institute three years ago, and I am involved in teaching courses that cover similar topics as in SEE. Moreover, I am engaged in research about the best ways to integrate solar and other renewable energy into power systems. This area is also a direction that attracts more and more current, and future SEE students.
So, at the same time, I can bring some new content to SEE. A vacancy was foreseeable due to Leo’s retirement. So, it was a good match that I take over his role and that I team up with Stefan Glunz as program directors of SEE. I think it is also the right combination of topics – Stefan is an expert in PV technology, and I focus on solar energy systems.
So, it is a quite new development that also came at the time of a significant change throughout the world. What has been the biggest challenge so far?
I got more involved in SEE during the Corona pandemic. On the one hand, online courses are a perfect choice during this time, as students can continue to learn during lockdowns and travel restrictions. On the other hand, I realized that in terms of exams, we are not as flexible as we could be. We rely to a large extent on written exams, which are carried out in partner centres around the globe, and which were also not available during the lockdowns. It shows that other forms of examinations might be better suited to an online study course.
From exchanges with a partner university, which has a lot of experience in online teaching, I learned that there are many more possibilities in terms of conducting exams. I think some of these options might also be suitable to SEE. We are now forced to try new examination formats, and we should take this momentum as an inspiration to establish successful arrangements even beyond the pandemic.
Another thing I realized is that the Campus Phase that is usually offered once per semester is quite an essential element of the study course. With all the possibilities and technical advances of online classes, it is still a highlight to gather with the other students, meet lecturers in person, see some labs “live”. Having to leave that out is a pity!
In between the conversations with everyone, we also had the chance to have a chat with Professor Anke’s current master and bachelor students. We have seen that they are also excited about this collaboration and her new position. They had only wonderful things to say about her – not because she is around. But because they feel genuinely inspired by her approach to lectures and her innovative spirit. We hear that she can convey a topic that could be boring to some, in a very interesting and stimulating way. Last year, she also invited various guest lecturers to talk about different issues.
What has been the most delightful experience you’ve had as a new director at SEE, or is there a recent achievement already that you want to share?
Well, I’m only starting in this role. But I already experienced the dedicated and motivated spirit within the SEE team, and my first impression of all the persons involved in it is very positive. It feels like every team member puts some heart to his or her work – this is very inspiring and motivating!
What is your dream for our future and the world of solar energy industry/renewable energy?
We see that many people are turning away from the old energy industries, like the oil and gas industry, for example. Instead, they want to learn about renewable energy, about more sustainable ways to provide energy to all people. I think the fewer people that build their career on carbon-intensive industries, the less burden and breaks we will have in the transition towards sustainable energy.
And the more people build their career on solar energy, the more acceleration we will experience on that same path. This participation is what we need: people that benefit from the energy transition, and that move it forward.
What would be your message for those starting their studies or career in solar energy?
Our graduates can and should become promoters of the transition towards sustainable energy systems all over the world. We want to help them also benefitting personally from this, through successful careers in the solar industry or other supporting institutions.
We congratulate her for her new position, and we are excited to have this distinguished scholar as our director.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited.