22. August 2022 | Magazine:

Role Model: Doro Bischoff Experiences as a First Generation Academic

The project Role Models: First Generation Academics at TU Braunschweig makes social diversity at our university visible as part of Focus 2022, enables people to get to know different educational biographies and creates academic role models for First Generation Students. Based on short interviews, members of TU Braunschweig who were the first in their family to attend university introduce themselves. This time: Doro Bischoff, PhD student at the Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics.

What hurdles have there been on your career path so far? What helped you to overcome them?

Doro Bischoff,PhD student at the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics. Photo: Doro Bischoff/TU Braunschweig

One hurdle along the way through my studies was financing. Fortunately, I was able to cover a large part of my Bachelor’s degree through BAföG. However, that came with a lot of effort; via the applications and proofs, all the way to repayment. At the same time, I was working alongside my studies and applying for scholarships, unfortunately often unsuccessfully.

Moreover, it was only during my studies that I learned how the academic world works. The idea of doing a doctorate was appealing to me early on, although I didn’t actually know what that meant in concrete terms at the time. Nevertheless, I took up an external doctoral position after graduating. Shortly afterwards, however, I realised that the subject wasn’t right for me. Becoming aware of that and then ultimately starting a new job was a challenge that made me grow.

What personal resources can you draw on?

I think an important resource is the exchange of experiences with others, for example in networks. The Femtec Alumnae Association is a central point of contact for me, where women from the STEM field work together. I’m not actually a Femtec alumna, because the Femtec programme wasn’t offered when I was a student in Braunschweig, but I was able to become a member anyway and I’m very inspired by the different life stories of the women there. Here I exchange information with doctoral researchers in small groups about our doctorates on a weekly basis. That creates a lot of motivation and mutual support. The network of First Generation Students at TU Braunschweig can also be such a resource, where I like to share my experiences.

What ideas do you have to improve equal opportunities for First Generation Students?

Doro Bischoff during an experiment for the Master’s thesis in 2019 Photo: Doro Bischoff/TU Braunschweig

From my point of view, it would lead to more equal opportunities if student financing through BAföG were easier. This applies above all to the application process and the regulations on the individual funding amount. On the one hand, it certainly discourages some people from beginning their studies if they are not sure how much support they can count on. On the other hand, it causes a lot of pressure during the studies to keep to the standard period of study and to keep taking care of the applications. Especially since the standard period of study is often impossible to keep to if you have a part-time job.

When did you decide to study and what influenced this decision?

The idea of studying became clear during my school years. However, I put off the question of what I wanted to study for a long time. The many options often overwhelmed me. In the end, I decided on physics because I have always been driven by my scientific curiosity and I am particularly enthusiastic about astrophysics. The latter probably comes from my big brother, who likes to watch sci-fi series. Due to the extraterrestrial research focus, TU Braunschweig sounded like a good choice to me and that’s why I have stayed until today.