Diana Wenzke has worked as a scientist at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg since 2005 and received her PhD in 2020. Today, she works as an acting department head at the Institute for Low CO2 Industrial Processes of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). She leads the project "DEkoS" Coupled Design and Deployment Optimization Tools for Complex Energy Engineering Systems and the project "Digital Retrofit Twin" - Conception of a Digital Platform for the automated derivation of recommended actions for decarbonization measures of energy-intensive industrial processes. In this interview, we talk to Diana Wenzke about her work and what drives her as a scientist and manager.
What are you working on right now?
Diana Wenzke: My department comprises 15 employees, 7 of whom are doing their doctorates. I supervise and support this work, which covers a wide range of topics from theoretical AI method development to the application of physical circular processes in industrial processes. In addition, I am currently supervising 2 master's theses, a compulsory intern, and I am assisting in the establishment of the School-Lab Cottbus, which will open at the end of 2022. Of course, a large part of my time is taken up by my work as head of department. As far as the management of my department is concerned, we are testing various models for mobile working that suit a young institute or department. One positive effect of the new flexibility is that we have been able to recruit specialists despite the pandemic.
What drives you personally?
Diana Wenzke: You have to go back a few years to find out. When I started studying mathematics, my goal was to work in a research institution or in industry at some point. To create something new, invent something better, make a contribution. Then came three children and I settled down. As a sedentary woman in Lusatia, that severely limits the possibilities. Against this background, the establishment of the DLR Institute for Low CO2 Industrial Processes in Cottbus was a real stroke of luck for me! That's why it's particularly important to me to promote training and continuing education in addition to exciting research.
What challenges do you see for yourself in the near future?
Diana Wenzke: After the last two years of competence building and personnel development were the focus of the department, industrial cooperations and third-party funding applications are increasingly on the agenda for the near future. The list of inquiries is growing by leaps and bounds. Together with my colleagues, the strategy of the department and the tasks of the individual employees must be adapted. I see another challenge in attracting even more qualified scientists to Lusatia.
What would you wish for your research in the future?
Diana Wenzke: Social acceptance regarding the need for theoretical and applied research could be higher. Furthermore, I would like to see easier access to process data of existing industrial plants. Without collecting and analyzing data, it is difficult to map complex industrial processes in detail in order to develop possible solutions for the planned coal phase-out and the associated structural change.
I would like to be able to attract not only young scientists but also experienced staff to our institute. To do this, however, I need to be able to offer them long-term career prospects.
Where do you see your discipline in 5-10 years?
Diana Wenzke: My discipline will change in the sense that in 5-10 years we will have a much better understanding of how to integrate artificial intelligence methods into the control of processes. This will bring the simulation of optimal use of fluctuating energies, such as wind power and solar energy, and the digital twin of an industrial plant to a level that reflects reality very well.