Promovieren an der Hochschule Merseburg

Ein Jahr ist es her, seit Sonam die vom Verbundprojekt Center of Advanced Scientific Education (CASE) finanzierte Promotionsstelle im Fachbereich Ingenieur- und Naturwissenschaften (INW) besetzt. Zeit, einmal nachzufragen, wie es ihr in den zurückliegenden 12 Monaten ergangen ist. Im Interview mit Maria Löffler, aus dem Team wissenschaftliche Nachwuchsförderung der HoMe, erzählt die 21-Jährige über ihre persönlichen Erfahrungen in Deutschland, ihr Forschungsthema und warum Merseburg der perfekte Ort für ihre Promotion ist.

Lesen Sie selbst, wie Sonam ins Schwärmen gerät, als sie von Ihrem Promotionsprojekt spricht, wie sie uns allen Tipps für eine bessere Work-Life-Balance gibt und uns entlarvend direkt auf bürokratischen Hürden hinweist. 

Sie überlegen zu promovieren – egal ob an einem unserer beiden Promotionszentren oder in Kooperation mit einer Universität – haben Fragen zu Ihrer Promotion oder möchten sich gerne über die Angebote der wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchsförderung informieren?
Dann besuchen Sie unsere Website.


It has been a year now since Sonam took up a doctoral position in the Department of Engineering and the Natural Sciences (INW), funded by the joint project Center of Advanced Scientific Education (CASE). Now it is time to find out how things have been going for her since then. In an interview with Maria Löffler, a member of the team supporting early career researchers at HoMe, the 21-year-old talks about her personal experiences, her research topic and why Merseburg is the perfect place for her doctorate.

So, read for yourself how Sonam goes into raptures when she talks about her doctoral project, how she gives us tips for a better work-life balance and reveals some bureaucratic hurdles.

If you are considering doing a doctorate – whether at one of our two doctoral centers or in cooperation with a university – have any questions about your doctorate, or would like to find out more about what we have to offer in the way of support for early career researchers, please visit our website.


Maria: It has been almost one year since you started your doctoral studies at Merseburg University of Applied Sciences – in cooperation with the University of Leipzig. How do you look back on the past year?

Sonam: Before coming to Germany, I had a kind of stereotype image in my mind that if you go to any European country and if you are not able to speak the native language, like German, you might have a hard time. But that's not the reality of life here. Surviving over here is really easy. I think Germany accepts a lot of international students and provides them with a homely environment.

I have a lot of friends, not only from Germany but from all over the world. And, as for my research and my results, I'm doing well, so I'm quite satisfied with the past year.



M: Why did you decide to do your doctorate in Germany and why did you choose Merseburg?

S: There are many reasons why I chose Germany. The very first thing was the cost of education. Literally, we don’t need to pay anything for education. This is really impressive for me. Another factor is because Germany is home to many world class institutes and companies, so this really helps you to build up connections and collaborate with these research leaders. That’s one of the reasons why I chose Merseburg, because it has many chemical companies, which produce polymers, silicones and paints. The third reason was because it provides a lot of opportunities for interacting with people - not only from Germany but from all over the world. This experience can also help us when pursuing our research if we get stuck somewhere and can’t make any progress. And the last reason is that the geographical location of Germany is just - “Wow!” For those who like to travel a lot, Germany is really a good gateway for entering all the European countries.

M: How is working here different compared to when you did your Master's degree?

S: I am kind of fortunate because I did my Master’s degree at one of the prestigious institutes in India called the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneshwar under the guidance of Professor Sujit Roy. I joined his laboratory when I was 17, and very young at that time. He gave me a very friendly environment and he's like a father figure to me. So, working over there and working over here is almost the same. The main difference is that, after coming here, I know how to manage my lab and my spare time!

M: Can you briefly explain what exactly you are researching into?

S: Well, I am synthesizing a drug for cancer treatment. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases in 2020 was 19.3 million. The number of people who died of cancer was around 10 million in 2020. It is expected that in 2024, the number of new cases may rise to 24.8 million. The current treatment for cancer is chemotherapy. So, now you might be wondering why we are doing this kind of thing again. Well, chemotherapy has a lot of side effects, like loss of hair, loss of appetite, vomiting, which means even after their treatment, patients do not have a good life. So, to avoid all this, we are working on two things. Basically, the first thing is to synthesize a drug, which has a novel mode of action. And for that I'm working on Ruthenium and I combine it with NSAIDs, so I connect both of them with an acid linker. So, basically, I take two drugs and connect both of the drugs with acid linkers so that we can reduce the dose. Instead of taking a multiple dose, one dose is sufficient. And the second aspect of my research are the new targets. So, the pH of a normal cell is around seven and the tumor cell is basically more acidic. To put it simply, if we have two drugs, they are both connected with an acid linker. Let’s suppose that both of the drugs are bottles and they are connected with one cap. So, whenever it enters a normal cell, it will not open up and remain stable. But as soon as it enters an acidic cell, the acid linker is activated and removed. So, both of the bottles are now unlocked and the drugs start to be released. In this way, we can protect our normal cell from the harmful chemical and we can overcome a lot of side effects.

M: What do you find most exiting about your topic?

S: The biological test! Actually, I'm about to submit my compounds for biological testing in the next few months, and I just can’t wait to get the results, like how good the compound is, which I have synthesized, for real life applications. That's the most exciting part for me.

M: How does your typical working day look like?

S: Usually, I wake up around seven something and around nine I am always in the lab from nine to sometimes four, six, seven. It really depends on my day-to-day work. Afterwards, I go to the gym three or four times a week. And, I also paint. Sometimes I paint and the rest of the time I spend writing down my experiences and using social media. I have uploaded videos and posts, related to chemistry, like how to wear gloves safely and about the main educational differences which I observed when I was in India and after coming over here to Germany.

M: What are your strategies for coping with failure or crises? Do you have any survival tips for other doctoral students?

S: At the beginning of your research, you are working in a new environment. So, initially, you might get stuck in a rut somewhere. But, the very practical thing which always works for me is to approach people and ask them for help because people are really nice over here and are always ready to help - especially my supervisors. Their experience is really helpful because they might already have experienced this kind of situation. For example, Professor Goran Kaluđerović is a very nice person. I just go to him and ask. He always has some advice.

M: As one of our doctoral students at Merseburg University of Applied Sciences, do you have any questions or requests?

S: Yes. There's a lot of paperwork in Germany. If you could reduce that, it would be very nice.



Currently the youngest doctoral student at Merseburg University of Applied sciences, Sonam has been working on her doctorate since March 2022, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Goran Kaluđerović and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Evamarie Hey-Hawkins (University of Leipzig). She is working on the topic: "Drug-Conjugated Ruthenacarboranes: Toward Hybrid Pharmaceuticals with a Dual Mode of Action“.

Read more about Sonam at: and follow her on Instagram and YouTube.

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