Pure studies are simply too theoretical for many people. This is also how Marie felt. Back when she chose her bachelor course, she opted for a dual study programme for applied mathematics and computer science at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences, which included vocational training as a technical software developer at Forschungszentrum Jülich. But it didn’t stop there: she liked the combination of theory and practice so much that she started a position as software developer at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research in addition to her master’s studies. There she is busy gathering data for her current project and investigating how energy management can be made as efficient as possible on the campus of the research centre.

Marieluise Oden combines practice and theory for her start in professional life as a software developer Photo: Forschungszentrum Jülich/Sascha Kreklau

Starting at the beginning

Already during school, Marieluise Oden had only one thing on her mind: numbers, numbers, numbers. She enrolled in mathematics and physics as advanced courses. “If there had been a computer science course back then, I would have picked it straight away,” the 23-year-old student says.

The subject of computer science continued to occupy her – especially when it became time to choose her course of studies. She heard about the dual study programme at Forschungszentrum Jülich from her sister:
“My sister is employed at the research centre herself. She works with dual students in various projects. I liked the idea of gaining initial experience in research work already during studies.” After some further research, what she wanted quickly became clear: a dual study programme in applied mathematics and computer science with vocational training as a technical software developer. The big advantage with this choice of studies is that everyone starts from the beginning and the prospective students do not have to have a background in computer science.

Everything in one place

With the dual study programme at Forschungszentrum Jülich, in cooperation with the Jülich Campus at Aachen University of Applied Sciences, students learn and work at the same place. Most of the study programme takes place there in the Supercomputing Centre. The professors and lecturers come here from the campus to hold various lectures and exercises for the students. In addition to the exercises, the students are offered study groups to help them quickly compensate for any deficits. In small groups, they can practise the knowledge they have learned step by step and then revise it together. “I myself attended a catch-up course on Java. I didn’t need it, but I wanted to be on the safe side,” Marie explains. Whenever the timetable allows, the students work in one of the institutes of the research centre. But most of the practical experience is gained in the period between semesters.

In addition to her studies, the dedicated software developer is already working on exciting research projects (Photo: Forschungszentrum Jülich/Sascha Kreklau)

Calculations for parking

The bachelor was seamlessly followed by the master programme in applied mathematics and computer science. The master student chose to specialise in applied mathematics and particularly enjoys statistics, stochastics and analytics. These insights are consolidated with current topics such as deep learning or machine learning. In one of her seminars on autonomous driving, Marie created a two-dimensional simulation for autonomous parking with the help of complex computation. “Here, so much data comes together – for example, I have to take into account how large the car is and what its turning radius is,” notes Marie.

Marie also wanted to combine theory with practice in her master’s studies. That is why she quickly sent a speculative application to the Institute of Energy and Climate Research.

There she is now working several hours a week as a software developer. Reconciling studies with work is not always easy, as she explains: “Sometimes it can be difficult not to lose sight of one thing because of the other. But my team leader always supports me wherever he can. Thanks to the flexible working hours, I can reconcile my work at the institute well with my courses.”

Using energy efficiently

Software developers can work in all sorts of fields. Marie is developing data solutions in the field of energy system technology at the Institute for Energy and Climate Research. There she is currently collaborating in the project Living Lab Energy Campus: “As part of this project, we consider the entire campus in its practical context and try to use software to capture when energy is consumed, how much is consumed and in what ways. In a second step, we want to develop automatic solutions to help improve the efficiency of energy use,” Marie says. Right now, the team is installing sensors everywhere on campus to gather data on energy consumption. This data will then be interconnected in a database. This data system will help determine where energy-saving solutions can be most effective: “It is these considerations, where subsystems form part of a solution approach, that interest me most about my work. I always try to see the big picture and understand it bit by bit.”

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