This is the answer offered by the scientific coordinator of the programme, Christelle Vergnat:
"Meeting people who work on the same problems as you do is essential otherwise you are on your own in your laboratory trying to find the solution to an intractable problem", as Andy Kiessling, one of our students, used to say. This is precisely why the IRTG was created in order to facilitate collaboration between researchers in Soft Matter Science in the Upper Rhine Region.
Today the IRTG includes more than thirty researchers and over twenty doctoral students working on fourteen scientific projects which are all interdisciplinary and interconnected. By virtue of the geographical proximity of the laboratories concerned, they can easily go to any of the member universities of the network and take advantage of the experience and expertise of researchers in partner laboratories.
This research programme is not just limited to a scientific collaboration between the region's partner universities, but it is also open to the whole of the international soft matter science community. Many renowned researchers are invited to share their experiences with the IRTG teams on scientific visits, in seminars or international events, for example: ‘A Discussion Meeting: Challenges in and Potential of Polymer Physics’.
The IRTG organises its first summer school in Mittelwihr, the SoMaS summer school in 2011, its aim being to bring together young researchers from across the region and the rest of the world interested in the topic of soft matter and to bring to them interdisciplinary skills which will be indispensable to their research. In addition the IRTG offers a range of interdisciplinary teaching programmes comprised of classes (offered by the doctoral schools of the partner universities and by visiting professors), seminars and advanced work experience placements to its young researchers.
Offering a programme of research excellence to our young researchers is not the only aim. It is essential to prepare them for the work environment post-PhD which is increasingly competitive by means of vocational training classes (foreign languages, management, communication techniques, etc.) or by contact with industry through the organisation of visits to different countries within the region.
Our young researchers demonstrate a genuine scientific curiosity and a culturally broad-minded attitude. It gives us all great pleasure to work together and to spend time together after work. International co-operation is also the pleasure of discovering the customs of other regions and other countries.