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Engineering Research in Germany

The typical study abroad program usually allows students to experience another culture through a classroom environment, but Jenny Shaffer’s second summer in Germany found her outside the traditional college experience, conducting cutting-edge research in her field alongside professionals. As one of 312 recipients of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Research Internship in Science and Engineering, Shaffer (German/ mechanical engineering ’17) spent three months at Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, one of Germany’s industrial hubs. Her internship focused on material science, a subfield of mechanical engineering built on researching new materials and improving materials already in use. She assisted a doctoral candidate, Maximillian Walter, with his thesis research on the development of new high speed steels to compare to the industry standard.

“What we wanted was metal with better wear resistance at higher temperatures,” said Shaffer. “My job was to take metals the industry was using, run them through several different types of heat treatments, and then see which one worked best. Then I took that treatment and tested it on our steels.”

Shaffer in Germany02Not only was their preliminary work on Walter’s thesis was highly successful, but this project also bolstered Shaffer’s interest in material science and let her see parts of Germany one does not usually visit while studying abroad. Last summer, she joined several Georgia Southern students in Regensburg for a cultural immersion study abroad trip, an experience Shaffer says was vital to this summer’s success.

“Regensberg was much more rural than Bochum, but the cultural immersion aspect of last summer’s trip gave me the language skills to connect with my coworkers,” said Shaffer.

Bochum was not the only new landmark on Shaffer’s itinerary: During one weekend, she gathered with her fellow DAAD interns in Heidelberg, a city of flourishing culture and historical charm, where hundreds of students from varying fields exchanged and presented their research.

“I loved getting to hear the other interns talk about their research,” said Shaffer. “It was cool to see students so passionate about what they were studying.”

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