About the adventure of living in another country and returning home

As diverse as the countries of this earth are, the people who inhabit them are equally diverse. The saying: ‘Different land, different customs’ sums this up perfectly. Of course, this difference can cause worries, especially if you plan to live in another country for a longer period of time. This was the experience of Dr. Nour Maraytta. The young scientist had the courage to leave her home country of Palestine to move to Germany for three years and complete her doctorate here.

Sometimes you have to jump and trust that you can fly: that’s how the decision to leave her home country for a while must have felt for Dr. Nour Maraytta. The destination of her stay abroad was Germany. There were some concerns associated with this: “At the beginning, of course, I had concerns. What would it be like to move to a completely foreign country where I don’t know anyone and don’t even speak the language?” the young scientist confesses her mixed feelings. “In addition, I knew that I would have to use many different instruments for my research and that I would have to learn how to use them first, in addition to working with many new people from all over the world.” At the same time, the prospect of being able to complete her doctorate at Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University was enticing, and this prospect gave her the courage to put her plan into action.

Physics and motivation – what else do you need?
Nour Maraytta is a determined young woman, driven by a desire to make a difference in the world and in her home country of Palestine. She laid the foundation for this endeavor with a study of physics, completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Palestine at Al-Quds University. This was followed by her doctoral thesis from 2017 – 2021, which she completed in Germany in the field of magnetocaloric cooling.

Dr. Nour Maraytta is now an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at Birzeit University in her home country of Palestine. Photo: © Private

In her PhD project, Nour studied the dynamics and structure of some magnetocaloric materials that can be used in magnetocaloric cooling. This is a novel energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cooling method that has the potential to replace conventional vapor compression technologies. “The idea of playing a small role in the mission to use energy more efficiently and keep the planet clean motivated me for my research project,” Dr. Nour Maraytta says. The equipment and infrastructure in Jülich and Aachen provided the scientist with the environment to turn this motivation into results.
Currently, research conditions in Nour’s home country of Palestine are not the best. But Nour Maraytta would like to change that, too. After her stay and doctorate in Germany, the young scientist therefore returned to her home country and is now an assistant professor in the physics department at Birzeit University. In this position, she is committed to motivating other students by sharing her own knowledge and experiences.

„With a little help from my friends“
In addition to lectures in physics, Dr. Maraytta also keeps an eye on her research. “I am working on a plan to continue my research in Palestine,” she reports. “For this, I would like to stay in contact with my group in Germany.” These contacts to Germany are a valuable asset that Dr. Nour Maraytta took back to her home country. “During my stay in Jülich, I met many nice people, some of whom became my closest friends. We spent a lot of time together and built many memories,” she says “and I also had the opportunity to visit many research centers and learn about many interesting research instruments.” These friends and research contacts now support her work in Palestine.

Nour celebrated her doctorate with her friends and colleagues in Germany. Photo: © Private

Looking back, Nour’s initial skepticism about going abroad was unfounded. The different people she met during her stay in Germany showed her that the variety and diversity of people and cultures are wonderful things to explore. The scientist would therefore like to encourage her current students to venture into graduate studies, including at Forschungszentrum Jülich, while simultaneously creating new opportunities for graduate research within Palestine. “I have learned that I can achieve anything I want as long as I work hard for it” is Nour’s strongest advice for her students, while also encouraging them to enjoy the journey. 

A science bridge between countries
Scientific contacts act like a bridge between countries, connecting not only certain individuals, but entire populations. This is the manner in which Palestine and Germany benefit from the Palestinian-German Science Bridge (PGSB), a cooperative research project that enables researchers to broaden their horizons in the other country. Dr. Nour Maraytta is an example of not only someone who has personally benefitted from the collaboration, but has transferred her new skills, knowledge and contacts within her community. “I just hope to be able to open opportunities for some of the students to do research and to use my experience to help them”, Nour explains of her plans to support research at Birzeit University. This includes concrete plans to remain active within the PGSB and collaborate with Jülich both as a guest scientist and as a joint supervisor of master thesis projects. In this way, the young scientist can set a good example and provide support to her students. The same support that was extended to her. Dr. Maraytta is very grateful to the supervisors who guided her in reaching her goals and continue to provide advice and support. “I want to thank my supervisors for helping me all the way during my master thesis, my PhD and afterward. And thanks for the PGSB for the PhD opportunity and for their financial support” concludes Nour.

The Palestinian-German Science Bridge is a pilot project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and jointly implemented by Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Palestinian Academy for Science and Technology (PALAST) with the goal of developing a joint research and education program between the partners.

The PGSB offers talented graduates of science and technology programs at Palestinian universities access to state-of-the-art equipment for the experimental part of their bachelor or master thesis and the opportunity to conduct a PhD project in Jülich. After successful completion, the PGSB graduates are assisted in their return to a Palestinian university to establish their own research groups in their field of research. The young scientists can thus make a strong contribution to the development of new graduate programs and lay the foundation for a Palestinian science and technology infrastructure.

Contact PGSB:
Dr. Caitlin Morgan
Project coordination
Tel.: +49 2461 61-85216

Prof. Dr. Ghaleb Natour
Scientific Director
Tel.: +49 2461 61-5045

Additional information under following links:
Palestinian-German Science Bridge: https://www.fz-juelich.de/ue/pgsb
Birzeit University, Palestine: https://www.birzeit.edu/
Jülich Centre for Neutron Science (JCNS), Quantum Materials and Collective Phenomena: https://www.fz-juelich.de/jcns/jcns-2/EN/Home/home_node.html

About Sabine Clemens

Sabine Clemens ist Pressereferentin für den Fachbereich Nationale und Internationale Beziehungen in der Unternehmensentwicklung. Daher schreibt sie in diesem Blog über die verschiedensten Themen der Internationalität. --- Sabine Clemens is press officer for National and International Relations in the department of Corporate Development. She therefore writes about a wide variety of topics relating to internationality in this blog.

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