October to December 2020, Issue 191
This is the last newsletter of 2020. When our alumnus Dr. Thomas Schumacher, engineer at the Cologne Cathedral Construction Works, gathered a group of alumni in the cathedral, high above the roofs of Cologne at the end of February, we had no idea that it would be the last alumni event of the year where participants could still meet in person and shake hands. Especially considering 2020 was the anniversary year of RWTH, we had big plans for Alumni Day on Campus Melaten. We would have loved to invite alumni from all over the world to return to their alma mater and celebrate with us.
But everything turned out quite differently. We actually still hoped that we would see the last of the coronavirus pandemic at the end of the year – or at least that its end would be near. The opposite is the case: the virus is currently spreading even more strongly than in spring, and Germany and many other countries are now in lockdown again. However, we can also be hopeful, because science has succeeded not only in developing suitable vaccines in record time, but also in carrying out the first vaccinations with them. So we hope that in the new year – as soon as the situation permits – we will again be able to offer you in-person events.
We – the Alumni Team – would like to thank all the readers of the Alumni Newsletter for continuing to stay in touch with us. We hope all our alumni enjoy the holidays and have a peaceful and, above all, healthy 2021!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! – Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein Frohes Neues Jahr! – Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année! – Vrolijk Kerstfest en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! – Feliz Navidad y Próspero Ano Nuevo
The Alumni Team
International Honor for Wil van der Aalst
Professor Wil van der Aalst, chair of Process and Data Science (PADS) at RWTH Aachen University and head of the Process Mining Group at Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FIT), has been appointed Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in recognition of his achievements in process mining and workflow processes. IEEE is the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology for humanity. Wil van der Aalst is one of the most-cited computer scientists in the world. The professor has published groundbreaking works in the area of process mining and developed the first process mining techniques, such as process discovery, conformance checking, and predictive algorithms.
ERC Consolidator Grant Awarded to Professor Peter Boor
ERC Consolidator Grants are among the most valuable and prestigious research grants in Europe. Awarded by the European Research Council, they are intended to support excellent scientists at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or program. Peter Boor studied medicine at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, and at RWTH Aachen University. In 2009, he received his doctorate from RWTH and the Slovak Medical University in Bratislava; in 2012, he obtained his Venia Legendi in experimental pathology. Recently, to contribute to a better understanding of COVID-19 and its pathogenesis, he established a central registry of autopsies of deceased COVID-19 victims, which he continues to lead and coordinate.
Award of Merit for Professor Jun Okuda
RWTH Professor Jun Okuda has received an Award of Merit from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Each year, individuals or groups of individuals are presented with the award for outstanding achievements in a particular area. This time around, four Germans received the award.
The award honors Okuda’s excellent scientific contributions in the field of inorganic chemistry, his long-standing dedication to academic exchange between Japan and Germany, as well as his commitment to further strengthening the friendship between both countries. Kiminori Iwama, of the Consulate-General of Japan in Düsseldorf, will award Okuda with the certificate at a later occasion due to the pandemic.
Three RWTH Scientists Among World's Most Cited Researchers
Three scientists from RWTH Aachen University are included in the latest list of Highly Cited Researchers. The physicians Fabian Kießling and Twan Lammers, and the biologist Ralph Panstruga are among the most frequently cited researchers worldwide. Kießling is head of the Institute for Experimental Molecular Imaging, Lammers leads the Nanomedicines and Theranostics working group. Both were already listed as Highly Cited Researchers in 2019. Panstruga, head of the Plant Molecular Cell Biology Lab, had already been selected for the list in 2014, 2015, and 2019.
RWTH Alumnus Awarded "Dresdner Lyrikpreis 2020"
Christoph Wenzel studied German and English at RWTH, where he also received his doctorate. Since 2007, he has been awarded numerous scholarships and literary prizes. Now he has been awarded the Dresdner Lyrikpreis. This poetry prize is awarded every two years and is intended to promote cultural exchange with the Czech Republic. Wenzel works as Digitization Officer for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at RWTH.
Alumnus Erwin Flender Awarded RWTH Honorary Doctorate
Rector Ulrich Rüdiger awarded Dr.-Ing. Erwin Flender the academic degree and title of Honorary Doctor of Engineering Sciences. Flender completed an apprenticeship as a lathe operator and then attained higher academic qualifications by attending continuing education classes. After studying production and mechanical engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Hagen, he studied foundry science at RWTH. Here, Flender also received his doctorate in 1985 on computer-aided simulation and modeling the hot cracking behavior during solidification of heat-resistant cast steel qualities. Together with other partners, he founded the MAGMA Gießereitechnologie GmbH company in Aachen in 1988. The aim was to develop software for simulating manufacturing processes for metal casting. Flender was able to convince the industry of his visionary ideas quickly while also leaving a lasting impression. He committed to following a business strategy with an eye towards internationalization early on. Flender also founded SIGMA Engineering, which creates simulation software for the development and production of plastic parts.
RWTH Spin-Off Honored With Gründerpreis NRW 2020
Every year, the Gründerpreis NRW for start-ups is awarded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and NRW.BANK to honor the most creative and successful business ideas in the state. From the ten finalists in this year's competition, the team of RWTH spin-off oculavis came out top. The company has revolutionized service processes in mechanical and plant engineering with the help of augmented reality. Oculavis relies on remote support and augmented reality workflows that work on any smartphone or iPad in addition to smartglasses.
NRW's most important start-up prize comes with a total of 60,000 euros in prize money and will be awarded by the Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, together with Chair of the Managing Board of NRW.BANK, Eckhard Forst. Finally, it should be noted that a second company from the Aachen region with "RWTH participation" also reached the finals: "Speisekammer", founded in 2015 by Ruth Roentgen and RWTH alumnus Dr. Robin Lamm, offers a full range of food that is fresh and sustainably produced from a regional producer network. In addition to a traditional store, they also developed an online store with its own delivery service. With their delivery service running on electric cars and their use of resource-saving reusable packaging, they have brought a new kind of sustainability to online grocery shopping.
Continued Education & Career
“RWTH Alumni Job Portal” Online
On our alumni jobs portal, companies can post job offers for management positions or experienced professionals. This platform is specially designed for RWTH alumni, as our graduates – in particular, those who already have work experience – are highly sought-after in the fields of business, economics, and industry. If your company is interested in posting a job offer, please send our alumni team an email.
RWTH International Academy Offers: Reduced Fees for RWTH Alumni Network Members
As a member of RWTH’s alumni network, you can benefit from reductions in course fees when you book a further education course at RWTH International Academy. You pay 5 percent less when you book a certificate course, seminar, or full-time Master’s course of study and 10 percent less when you book a part-time-program. You can book the courses and study programs at the International Academy Website.
Full-Time MBA at RWTH Aachen University
RWTH Business School is offering a Full-Time MBA Program in Digitalization & Industrial Change starting winter semester 2021/22. The program primarily teaches you how to apply and integrate technical (digital) solutions to contribute to successful change in companies. Get ready to manage the digital transformation in industry. The application portal is already open and candidates who apply by January 15, 2021 will benefit from an early bird discount of 10 percent off the total tuition fee!
New Executive MBA Concept
With the new Executive MBA, you will be optimally prepared for the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation and the associated tasks for companies. The program has been supplemented with state-of-the-art blended learning methods, which, above all, offer you more flexibility and space for personal development. Look forward to a varied and modern learning journey consisting of digital self-learning phases, interactive days at RWTH Business School, international modules, and expand your potential! The next starting date is April 2021.
Science & Business
Number of Students at RWTH Continues to Rise
The number of students enrolled at RWTH has risen again in winter semester 2020/21 As of December 1, 2020, 47,173 students are enrolled at RWTH. Women represent 33 percent of the student body, as in the previous year. A total of 10, 588 students are enrolled in their first-course semester. Mechanical Engineering is still the University’s largest Faculty with a total of about 13,000 students. It also saw the biggest rise of students in their first-course semester. The number of international students at RWTH also increased, with 12,477 international students currently enrolled at RWTH. The country representing the largest group of international students is China, followed by India, which accounts for 13 percent of the international student body.
Will Roads Be Able to Supply Cares With Energy in the Future?
RWTH researchers are seeking to develop concepts and material systems for the transfer of energy between vehicles and roads. They are also investigating how they can integrate this into the infrastructure with the aim of having vehicles draw the energy required to run or to be rapidly charged from an induction field while in use. Induction modules embedded in the road would generate this energy. The Institute of Highway Engineering headed by Professor Markus Oeser and the Institute of Electrical Machines headed by Professor Kay Hameyer are cooperating on the InductInfra project. The current focus of the funding program is the electrification of private and commercial vehicles. Long-distance electric traffic is still fraught with many problems, such as lack of range, battery size, battery weight, and inadequate charging infrastructure. A possible solution to this could lie in continuous charging or energy transfer between the vehicle and the roadway during the journey.
RWTH and City, University of London Researching Silent Flight of Owls and Its Possible Significance for Aviation
When owls pounce on their prey at night, their wings do not make a sound. Now researchers based in Aachen and London have discovered another piece of the puzzle of how the hunter manages to fly silently in the dark. Their ability to fly silently is due to a special physical characteristic of the feathers on the leading edge of the owl’s wings, which helps to reduce noise.
The structures of the feathers look like a comb with many small barbs, or filaments, positioned next to each other, as Professor Hermann Wagner from RWTH's Institute of Zoology explains. When the bird is flying, the air is directed inwards by this leading-edge comb, which improves airflow and reduces friction at the wingtip, turbulence, as well as other noisy effects. Project partner Professor Christoph Bruecker from City University London emphasizes that the microstructures of owl feathers may now inspire innovation in aviation. Bruecker received his doctorate and venia legendi from RWTH and is now Chair in Aeronautical Engineering at City. According to the aerodynamicist, the swept wings of aircraft create turbulence, which contributes to noise development at the wing. These effects could be reduced in the future by adopting a comb-like leading-edge device in future laminar wing design, inspired by the owl wing’s array of barbs. This has the potential to reduce fuel consumption and aircraft noise.
Hidden Processes in the Center of the Sun Uncovered
Researchers from RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich published their findings on the first experimental evidence of fusion processes in heavy stars in the journal Nature. The scientists involved in the so-called Borexino collaboration have for the first time proven the existence of the CNO fusion cycle in nature by detecting solar neutrinos that originated from this process. They have now published their findings in the renowned scientific journal Nature. At its core, the sun is a gigantic fusion reactor. Inside, at a temperature of around 15 million degrees, hydrogen nuclei continuously fuse together to form the element helium. In the process, they emit different types of radiation and particles. Some of these are neutrinos. Billions of them pass through every square centimeter on earth every second. This property of being able to pass through materials undisturbed makes them ideal probes for gaining a closer glimpse inside the solar fusion furnace: They provide direct, uncompromised information about the conditions in the center of the sun.
Sustainable Raw Materials and Energy Supply
In October, RWTH and the companies Nivelsteiner Sandwerke and Sandsteinbrüche GmbH signed an agreement covering joint research on new technologies for a sustainable supply of raw materials and energy. With financial support from the ERS Prep Funds, the partners are establishing a real-world lab on the site of Nivelsteiner Sandwerke. The lab makes it possible to undertake research and development activities in a real mining environment. The collaboration between RWTH and Nivelsteiner Sandwerken provides an important basis for the research of new technologies, which is of particular benefit to small and medium enterprises in the raw materials supply sector. Key research focuses include the deployment of AI, 5G data transmission, novel sensor technologies, and innovative process control technology for raw material extraction and preparation.
Aerosol Transmission of Coronavirus: Classrooms Need More Ventilation
Research teams from RWTH assessed the risk of transmission of coronavirus through aerosols in classrooms compared to other types of room and concluded that classrooms pose a higher risk if they are not mechanically ventilated and if there are no guidelines in place to ensure sufficient ventilation. This is due to the relatively high occupancy rate and the fact that teachers and pupils tend to spend long periods of time in classrooms, as Professor Dirk Müller from the Institute for Energy Efficient Buildings and Indoor Climate explains. The study compared the risk of infection in various types of rooms. According to the study, classrooms and sports halls pose a greater risk than fully occupied lecture theaters with a capacity of 1.000, for example. Larger gatherings at home also pose a risk. "Data has now confirmed that entertaining larger gatherings at home can be much riskier than events in a public setting. In the private sphere, with window ventilation alone, the air exchange rate is often so low that the transmission of the virus via aerosols works well," says Müller. The risk of infection would be much lower in many public buildings equipped with ventilation systems. Well-ventilated rooms such as modern lecture theaters would also be much less of a problem, even with high occupancy rates.
First Fully Automated Cross-Border Rescue Flight Launched in Aachen
The GrenzFlug project between RWTH and the City of Aachen succeeded in completing its first fully automated cross-border search and rescue mission. The NRW minister of transportation, Hendrik Wüst, launched the mission via a mobile ground control center in Düsseldorf and monitored the flight. Ground-based search missions are time-consuming and involve a lot of personnel, automated aerial systems are able to arrive at the target area fast and to systematically search even the hardest-to-reach areas. Over the last months, the team from RWTH’s Institute of Flight System Dynamics headed by Professor Dieter Moormann has equipped an unmanned aircraft with all the sensors required for autonomous flight. The tilt-wing aircraft is able to take off and land vertically and to cover long distances, even out of the controller’s range of vision.
Plastics Recycling Using Microbes
In 2019 alone, around 360 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide, often ending up either in landfill sites or even in the countryside or the sea. An international, multidisciplinary consortium – funded by the EU HORIZON 2020 program – is therefore researching new and environmentally sustainable recycling methods. The aim is to find viable complementary alternatives to mechanical and chemical processes. RWTH Professor Lars Blank, Chair of Applied Microbiology, is the coordinator of the MIX-UP project, short for Mixed Plastics Biodegradation and Upcycling Using Microbial Communities. The Chair of Biotechnology, the Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry, the chemical engineering institutes of the AVT are representing RWTH and contributing to the project. The overall aim is to develop processes for the microbial transformation of plastic waste into valuable molecules.
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