From Munich to Footscray: Susanne Birkhold

Susanne Birkhold has come all the way from Munich's Ludwig Maximilians University to Victoria University for practical research experience, and she's brought a suitcase-full of enthusiasm with her.

The 20-year-old physics student passed a tough selection process for the German government sponsored DAAD-RISE program, which sends undergraduate to post doctoral students abroad to work on international research projects.

Ms Birkhold decided from a long list of universities to join Dr Nicoleta Dragomir here at VU and says she is loving every minute of it.

"I thought the fun part would be seeing Australia but in fact - I know this sounds very nerdy - most of the fun has been here in the labs," Ms Birkhold says.

Having just finished the second year of her bachelor degree, Ms Birkhold is enjoying the opportunity to don a lab coat and see what optics research - the study of light and its interactions with matter - is really like.

Her project with Dr Dragomir is focussed on bio-photonics, which has applications including laser eye surgery, brain surgery and cancer treatment.

"Since arriving at Victoria University I have totally jumped into photonics; seeing how it actually works in practice rather than just calculating in the classroom, using the microscopes we learn about at university and working with real lab researchers,"￾ Ms Birkhold says.

She has learnt the steps for carrying out research - including the golden rule to write everything down as you go - and is even hoping to have her research published.

Dr Dragomir describes the DAAD-RISE program as "an extraordinarily satisfying experience" and says Ms Birkhold's talent is typical of the quality of students coming through the program.

"I have been blown away by the calibre of the students, even those who did not pass selection to come here," Dr Dragomir says. "These students are the best in Germany; they totally understand what you are asking of them and they are motivated."

Ms Birkhold says while the city of Melbourne was part of the attraction for choosing VU, Dr Dragomir's research project was the major factor in her decision.

She says the positive experience of being a researcher will spur her on to complete her bachelor degree, masters, then PhD once she leaves VU next month.

"At this stage I want to continue in research because it's so much fun and you are free because you don't have a boss over you," she says.

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