French-German Young Chemists Conference “Curiosity”
The French-German Young Chemists Conference “Curiosity” took place from 30 June to 1 July 2022 at the Faculty of Technical Sciences of the University of Haute-Alsace in Mulhouse, France. The event was organised by the “Young Chemists of Upper Rhine” composed of five regional networks of young chemists: the French Chemical Society (RJ-SCF) in Alsace and the Young Chemists Forum (JCF) of German Chemical Society (GDCh) in Freiburg, in Karlsruhe, in Saarbrücken and in Kaiserslautern.
The meeting was attended by fifty truly curious and enthusiastic chemists. The participants presented their research in the form of oral presentations and posters. The program included four plenary lectures by Ingo Krossing from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Joanna Wencel-Delord from Université de Strasbourg, Alexander Hinz from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Jean-François Carpentier from Institut des Sciences Chimiques de Rennes. Professor Krossing presented research about compounds acting as deelectronators and their redox potentials. Joanna Wencel-Delord brought the participants into a passionate world of asymmetric C-H activation reactions. Alexander Hinz shared his achievements in synthesis of carbazolyl complexes of group 2 and group 14 elements. Professor Carpentier talked about rare-earth based catalysts for the ring-opening polymerization (ROP) of different classes of cyclic (thio)esters which constitute a possible alternative to conventional “plastics”. The book of abstracts is available on the conference website.
The participants enjoyed the friendly and stimulating atmosphere to present their research work, learned from each other and discussed the research of their peers. The prize for best oral presentations were awarded to Laura Cipriano Crapina from Institute of Material Science of Mulhouse on her research about synthesis of a novel clay-like modified electrode for wastewater treatment with heterogeneous Electro-Fenton process and to Gabriel Martinez from Institute Charles Sadron who presented total landscape of hydrogen-bonding in organic electronics. The best poster prize went to Xingyu Wu from Institute of Material Science of Mulhouse who works on the investigation of two-photon polymerized microstructures using fluorescence lifetime measurements.
The event was possible thanks to our sponsors and partners: Franco-German University (FGU), Université de Haute-Alsace, IdEx University of Strasbourg-Initiatives d’excellences, Cluster for Molecular Chemistry in the Upper Rhine Area, Société Chimique de France, Carbolution, Institut Charles Sadron, Salveco, Office franco-allemand pour la Jeunesse (OFAJ), BASF, Institut de Science des Matériau de Mulhouse, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Soprema, European Chemical Society, Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker e.V., École nationale supérieure de chimie de Mulhouse and Cooking for You.
Aligning students and employers’ expectations on the skills requirements of young talents
The European Young Chemist Network (EYCN) participated in the Future Leaders Dialogue (FLD) initiative coordinated by the European Institute of Industrial Leadership (EIIL) together with EIIL industry members (AirLiquide, Covestro, Worley, McDermott and Neste) and European Student Organisations (BEST, ESTIEM, EYE and JEE).
To promote a dialogue between the two, a survey was created to test the views of employees, and students. Additionally, the Organising Committee interviewed four members of the EIIL’s Industrial Advisory Board. On the 5 April 2022, invited participants came together at the first annual Future Leaders Dialogue Conference to discuss the survey findings and their responses to this.
Students and companies both agreed that university alone does not sufficiently prepare students (to be recruited) for industry. Students should look to demonstrate their soft skills, teamwork, communication, and motivational skills alongside their technical skills. The effectiveness of organizations such as EYCN for developing soft skills in young talent is not yet appreciated by the employers. They should understand and value these experiences more.
Students are attracted to working in (culturally) diverse teams and employers are promoting this well. However, there is a large mismatch where employers should promote how the position has an impact on society. Both students and employers are conscious of greenwashing. Students really care about the emissions and energy policies associated with the employer and its products. However, companies know more about and choose to promote their sustainable product itself rather than where it’s come from.
Very useful insights were gained from the interviews of the EIIL’s Industrial Advisory Board members. Jelle Nederstigt (President Europe, Middle East & Africa, Worley) said that “For really specific functions in the department we will ask for the right education, but for the people who will become the leaders of the company, we look more at soft skills because these are less easy to learn.” Michael B. Friede (Chief Commercial Officer – Performance Coatings & Member of the Executive Committee, AkzoNobel) spoke that “We will always heavily look for learning agility. As learning agility is one of the best predictors for future leadership growth: how agile are you in taking on new challenges, how open are you to open your mind to learn new things, to train yourself.”
Whatever career a young chemist would choose, soft skills and learning agility should be part of her/his skill set alongside the technical knowledge acquired during the studies.