The IT three: The doctoral candidate
Sebastian Dorok is in the final stages of his doctoral process. To put it very simply, it’s about the processing and analysis of extremely large data volumes such as those generated in scientific research. In his thesis, which he is completing at the university in Magdeburg, Sebastian Dorok is being supported by Bayer.
With this three-part blog series, we provide an insight into a special network that is typical for Bayer, and show how closely scientific research, business and IT are linked with one another. (1) Doctoral candidate Sebastian Dorok, (2) Bayer manager Karsten Tittmann (3) BaySEN advisor Horstfried Läpple.
What is your background and what kind of cooperation and support are you receiving from Bayer?
After graduating from high school, I began a dual work/study program in computer science at Volkswagen. This enabled me to combine my interest in computer science with practical experience in a company. During this process, I gained experience in various IT departments – from IT support to marketing. After receiving my bachelor’s degree and a diploma from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce through the dual course of study, I began a master’s program focused on database systems. In the search for a suitable topic for my thesis, my current doctoral advisor referred me to Mr. Läpple. That’s how I came into contact with Bayer. In the context of my master’s thesis, I developed an initial concept for integrating genome analysis processes into relational database systems. I was then given the opportunity to expand on these ideas within the scope of my doctoral thesis.
What kind of support do you receive from Bayer?
My research project was primarily initiated by Mr. Tittmann and Mr. Läpple. Both are interested in the results, so they supported my work in various ways. I regularly discuss my results and findings with Mr. Läpple. With his tremendous experience in the world of Bayer, he constantly makes clear how important the compliance, standardization and comprehensibility of results are in a research-based, international company. In combination with the knowledge about his career path at Bayer, this serves as a good basis for me to study the advantages of a database-supported solution for genome analysis and to address the associated challenges for achieving the objective. What’s more, his contacts at SAP and among other database producers are helpful to evaluate the solutions I have developed from the perspective of commercial systems as well.
Yet it is equally important to understand that databases are not the solution to all problems per se. This realization was conveyed to me by Mr. Läpple already at the beginning of my project. I truly accepted that realization through various discussions about my thesis with dyed-in-the-wool bioinformaticians, who are somewhat skeptical about databases, as well by delving more deeply into the material itself. This conflict, which is inherent in my work, is what makes it appealing on the one hand and requires constant motivation on the other. Mr. Läpple is especially helpful with the latter in particular.
Another cornerstone of my work is the financial support I get from Bayer. For this purpose I was hired for the planned project duration of three years. A special feature of the agreement is that I am conducting my research in Magdeburg, rather than at a Bayer site. Through presentations and reports I regularly converse with Bayer employees, but I am independent as far as my research is concerned. A tremendous advantage for my doctoral work is the financial security that comes from being able to bill participation in conferences and workshops through the company. Unfortunately it’s not always that simple in a university environment.
What does your typical work week look like?
Research is generally characterized by the fact that you pursue a goal but don’t know at first how to achieve it. Usually you have a theory or an idea, but you first have to test it. In the process, you often come across problems that weren’t always evident beforehand. Generally you derive research questions from the objective that are then answered. First it’s important to concentrate on the literature that’s related to the topic. This gives you an overview of the state of the art and you have to decide how to achieve the goal, or whether existing solutions are insufficient and have to be modified. Then you evaluate whether the expectations placed on the solution can be met and where the boundaries are. Finally, the results are usually published in the form of conference or journal contributions. Your work week can vary depending on where you stand in the achievement of your objective: literature research, implementation, experiment planning, preparation of results for publication, etc.
However, at university I don’t just work on my own research topic, but also maintain a regular dialogue with colleagues about their theses. My tasks also include the supervision of students in their theses and projects, as well as support for university instruction. The supervision of students has the advantage that they can deal with topics that you yourself don’t have enough time for. Teaching allows you to make contact with students on the one hand and results in interesting experiences on the other. Before my doctoral work, for example, I could not have imagined giving a substitute lecture.
What’s your impression of Bayer?
First I have to say that my impression of Bayer is limited to what I get wind of in Magdeburg. One thing that’s immediately evident is the company’s strategic determination – the carve-out of Covestro being one example. Here I always have the feeling that a lot of effort is made to create a pleasant working environment for the employees despite all the competition. In general, the employees with whom I’ve come into contact have always been very friendly and helpful.
What are your aspirations for the future?
Above all, of course, I hope to complete my doctorate successfully and on time. I’ve learned a lot about academic life during this time. But my path now leads me back to the business world. I hope I can continue to work on exciting projects with interesting people in the future.
This post is also available in: German