Early research included
Sabrina Lindinger can only shake her head in disbelief at the typical cliché that not enough is done in the area of research and development at Austrian Universities of Applied Sciences. “I already did some work in basic research during my bachelor’s studies, and now it is even a requirement for my master’s thesis to include something new and research-related,” explains the student in the master’s course “Biomedical Science” at the FH Campus Vienna. And she’s not alone with this experience: The doors to research and development projects are open to everyone at UASs – and not just in the later semesters of one’s studies. Research is conducted here in all fields, from medical engineering to mechatronics to multi-media technologies, whereby each UAS determines its own focus. Students in the bachelor’s programmes already have the opportunity to get their first taste of research by participating hands-on in projects by collecting data or doing research – even before they go on to take over research projects as a part of their master’s studies.
Results and Contacts
It can even be good if students soon see the results of their scientific efforts in real products or processes: At UASs, research is not simply conducted in a vacuum but is application-oriented and closely coordinated with the domestic economy. This not only leads to labs which are excellently equipped but also to close contacts, for example in the pharmaceutical sector, car manufacturing industry or software development, which prove to be useful for one’s own career later on.
Along their journey into research, students at UASs are supported in organisational respects. when possible, waiting times are eliminated, and having to ask for everything is also a thing of the past at modern universities. “At the MCI, projects which we can participate in are regularly introduced to us,” reports, for example, Markus Probst, mechatronics student at the Management Center Innsbruck. One of these presentations inspired the 26-year-old to start his own unique project, which he is now working on as part of his bachelor’s thesis: the development of a Wi-Fi communication system for a football throwing machine, which he is collaborating on closely with an Austrian football team, the Swarco Raiders Tyrol. Probst, himself, did not develop the machine: “Other bachelor’s and master’s theses had already been written on this before I came along,” he laughs, “I got the machine when it was already finished.” The challenge he is now facing is to develop a Wi-Fi protocol that makes it possible for the coaches to direct the machine using an app – and not a cable as was the case until now. The point of the machine is that new times, speeds, and flying curves can be entered, which the athletes can then use to train. This – until now – was only possible when the device was hooked up by a cable. “Until now, I had never really had much to do with football,” recalls Probst, “but when I saw the machine at the project presentations, I wondered if there wasn’t something I could do with it.” The answer was “yes”. And when Probst, who has now become a football fan, is finished with his thesis, the coach will have an easier job, and Markus Probst will have the title “Bachelor of Science”. Until he gets his master’s…
Ali Aburaia is working on the facilitation of work processes. The student in the bachelor’s study programme “International Business Engineering” at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien is working as a lab assistant in the digital think tank “of an institution of research that deals with innovation in all facets of the topic ‘Industry 4.0’,” as the 22-year-old explains. “It’s about developing concepts which can be used to replace the usual static production lines of factories with robots,” says the junior researcher. The central issue is getting the different robots that speak different languages to communicate with one another. Not a small task for a student who is in his fourth semester and who skipped the first two semesters, joining in the third. He is already being paid for his research activity, which he does independently. “I have a project leader who I meet with once a week to present my suggestions,” reports Aburaia on his hands-on scientific work, “and when I get the ok, I can start working on my ideas.” And how hard is it to find such a position so early on? “If you demonstrate the right interest and commitment and respond to the advertisements, you’ll be given an opportunity,” he is convinced, “and all of us here in research and development are still pretty young.”
Houses for the Future
This also true for Elisabeth Weber, who is one of the students of the first year-group of the bachelor’s programme “Building Services Engineering and Building Automation” at the University of Applied Sciences Burgenland. She, at the young age of 20, is already participating in the research project “Living Lab” at the university. “Our project deals with the house of the future, and I am preparing the project days which will define what this house will look like and which standards it should have,” she reports on the content of her research project in the third semester of her bachelor’s studies. No obstacles had to be overcome in order to gain access to this research opportunity, which, among others, was one of the reasons why Weber chose to study at a UAS. “On the contrary – we are sometimes even asked directly by tutors if we might be interested,” says Weber, “and since there are so many research projects, there is always a demand for students.” Yet no one is ever left alone, emphasises the student: “We are supported by all of the people participating in the project and have the possibility to move around from area to area,” she happily reports.
Lab in London
Sabrina Lindinger from the FH Campus Vienna has had a great deal of support in her unusual plans to research for her master’s thesis in Biomedical Science. The 26-year-old is working on it at London’s King’s College – although she also has to attend lecturers at her university back home. “The course head really helped me a lot by making it possible for me to sit in the lecturers using the virtual Dot-Connect-System,” she expresses her gratitude at the creation of the conditions permitting her to focus completely on her research in London. The research deals with myocardial diseases, and Lindinger is researching proteins which should transport certain information to the centres of diseased cells, for example, to prevent these cells from undergoing ankylosis. Going to London in order to do this was the wish of the young researcher: “The head of our course has a very good network in the field of research – I would have also had options in Austria,” reflects Lindinger. After so much research, not only for her bachelor’s but also for her master’s thesis, it’s time for a break for Lindinger: “Now I want to work for a while,” she laughs, “and maybe have a weekend off again. Having to do so much research is very stressful.”