Postdoc to PhD: Dr. Liesel Sommer (EN)
Dr. Liesel Sommer is currently a member in the working group applications of PDEs at the WWU.
In this interview she would like to share her experiences so far as a postdoc and during her doctorate with you. The interview took place on July 28th, 2020.
What are you working on? / What is your research topic?
In my work I simulate propagation of fractures. Here the usual grid based FEM methods run into problems as fractures do not only propagate along element boundaries. I combine two different approaches to tackle this problem. The introduction of a phase field smears the crack out, making exact resolving by the grid unnecessary. On the other hand, unfitted methods, like the unfitted discontinuous Galerkin method I apply, can handle discontinuities of solutions inside of elements, thus allowing a fracture to propagate trough elements.
How did you find your research topic?
The supervisor of my PhD had a couple of ideas in mind when I started working. Together we decided for one direction. Then, during my work, I focused on the things that I found most interesting.
What does a normal working day look like? What is the difference to your PHD time?
A normal working day does not differ that much from PhD life.
Depending on my current focus I either tackle analytical problems on the paper, studying relevant literature, or I program the simulations, search for errors in source code and run convergence tests to validate my algorithms and programs.
Nevertheless, there are some differences. First, as I do not want to stay in academics, I feel a lot less pressure now and it is easier for me to get my mind off the job after work. Second, obviously I spend much less time writing things down and proof reading than in the last months of my PhD.
I would say the Postdoc for me is more like the second phase of a PhD. You are well into your subject and do the actual work, going to conferences and maybe writing first papers, but not yet writing it all down. The third big difference is sitting at home in my Home Office, discussing much less with colleagues due to Corona. But I guess that is the same for all of us.