Chemist holding a Li-ion battery in his hand
© Amadeus Bramsiepe / KIT

The satisfaction of contributing to advancements in technology

A conversation about working as a foreign researcher at KIT in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg.

Some research results stick out because they provide solutions for the pressing problems of our time. Such was the case with arecent publication of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers who developed a sustainable recycling method that recovers lithium from battery waste. Dr. Oleksandr Dolotko, first author of the study, is a senior scientist at the Institute of Applied Materials Energy Storage Systems (IAM-ESS) within KIT. He is originally from Ukraine where he studied Chemistry and did his PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. After research stays in Ames (Iowa, USA), Paris, Stuttgart, and Munich, he started to work as a scientist at KIT in Karlsruhe in 2021. In an interview with career start bw, he tells us why researching at KIT feels rewarding, gives tips to foreign researchers how to tackle typical challenges and describes the good balance between professional and personal life in Baden-Württemberg. 

Dr. Dolotko, why did you choose to join KIT in Baden-Württemberg?

Dolotko: In the pursuit of scientific exploration, one often encounters crossroads that lead to new opportunities and destinations. For me, the decision to join the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, as a scientist was driven by a combination of factors.

KIT's esteemed reputation, particularly in energy storage materials, aligned perfectly with my research goals. The institute's commitment to excellence and conducive research environment made it an ideal fit for me.

My previous collaborations and admiration for Prof. Helmut Ehrenberg, the institute director, played a crucial role in my decision. Our shared scientific philosophies and interactions solidified my choice to join IAM-ESS for further career advancement.

What do you appreciate about your work as a scientist at KIT?

Dolotko: As a scientist at KIT, the first thing I profoundly appreciate is the invigorating scientific environment. I find myself in a unique ecosystem where knowledge, innovation, and the aspiration to shape the future of technology coexist. My work revolves around energy materials, with a particular emphasis on battery materials and battery recycling. At KIT, I am fortunate to collaborate with some of the leading specialists in this domain. Their wealth of experience and profound knowledge serves as an unparalleled reservoir of learning and growth.

Additionally, another aspect of my work that I deeply value is the extensive availability of high-caliber analytical equipment. This wide array of technological resources fuels the exploration of innovative concepts and experimental theories. It essentially means that I am free to delve into practically any of my scientific curiosities or ideas. It’s akin to having a massive playground where I can experiment, test, and iterate, thereby facilitating the refinement and optimization of my work.

Furthermore, the KIT encourages a collaborative ethos, where ideas and findings are openly shared and scrutinized. This philosophy of knowledge sharing ensures an enriching exchange of ideas that spans across various disciplines and research areas.

Overall, the work at KIT is challenging yet gratifying. It provides a fusion of intellectual stimulation and the satisfaction of contributing to advancements in technology, particularly in the realm of energy materials.

Why is Baden-Württemberg an interesting research location for scientists from abroad?

Dolotko: Baden-Württemberg is one of my favourite regions in Germany due to a multitude of factors. It boasts an optimal mix of advanced research facilities, rich cultural heritage, and a high quality of life, thereby presenting an attractive proposition for international scientists.

From a professional viewpoint, it houses leading universities and research institutions, which are hubs of innovation especially in renewable energy materials. This presents a fantastic opportunity to work alongside and learn from experts in the field.

On a personal level, Baden-Württemberg is endowed with an enriching blend of a pleasant climate, stunning nature, gastronomic delights, and deep-rooted traditions. It's a great place to unwind and draw inspiration from the surrounding beauty. One of the daily delights I cherish greatly is the enjoyable 25 minutes bike ride to and from work, taking a scenic route through the tranquil forest trail, where I find immense joy in the melodious sound of the birds.

Moreover, for those moving with families, Baden-Württemberg is an excellent place to raise children. The education system in Germany is of high caliber, with a strong emphasis on comprehensive learning and holistic development. In particular, Baden-Württemberg offers an extensive range of quality educational opportunities, from kindergarden to world-class universities, ensuring that your children receive a top-notch education.

What are your tips for scientists from foreign countries who also want to do research in Baden-Württemberg?

Dolotko: Navigating the German scientific landscape can indeed be challenging for foreign scientists, but the rewards for those who persevere can be immense. The journey to secure a stable scientific position requires dedication and diligence; therefore, once you secure a position, it's crucial to work assiduously, publish your findings, and continuously strive for excellence.

Can you think of any hurdles and how to overcome them?

One particular hurdle many scientists grapple with – and this is not only true for Germany – is securing a permanent job position.

For Germany I can say, that learning German to a proficient level can greatly enhance your competitiveness in this field and enable you to engage in high-level scientific discourse. Moreover, pursuing a career in industry can be an alternative pathway for scientists to secure a permanent job position. Therefore, my advice to foreign scientists is to determine your preferred career path, whether in academia or industry, as early as possible.

What are your future plans?

After much consideration, I decided to transition into the industrial sector, where I successfully attained a permanent position. I'll be delving into the topic of battery recycling in the industry and I am glad that I will continue my career in Germany even if it’s not in academia.

Tip for researchers: Looking for a scientific position in Baden-Württemberg? Use our job search.

Author: Leonie Rörich