Award for Best Doctoral Supervision 2023

f.l.t.r.: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brüne (Vice President GU, Chairperson of the Board of Directors GRADE), Prof. Maresi Nerad (University of Washington, Chairperson of the scientific council GRADE), Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles (Faculty 15), Prof. Dr. Bernd Skiera (Faculty 02), Prof. Dr. Sarah Speck (Faculty 03), Dr. Sybille Küster (Managing Director GRADE)

On Thursday, October 12, 2023, outstanding professors* of Goethe University were awarded the prize for the best doctoral supervision by the Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE). The prize was awarded for the fourth time and this years number of nominees was higher than ever before. Among the 43 nominees were supervisors from all departments, who were invited together with their doctoral students to join the award ceremony at Campus Westend.

The Award Ceremony

After the welcome with drinks in the foyer of the Casino building, GRADE's managing director, Dr. Sybille Küster, and the chairman of the GRADE board, Vice President Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brüne, opened the ceremony with their greetings. Both speakers emphasized the necessity for a sustainable development of standards for the supervision of doctoral candidates. Besides scientific excellence, they also pointed out the importance of networking, career advancement, and diversity.

In the course of the event, two of the winners of the GRADE competion scholarships for international PhD candidates were honored: Anna Iakovets (FB 10) presented her PhD project entitled "Ordinäre Grausamkeit. Paradoxe der Emanzipation in Theaterstücken von Thomas Bernhard". Feifei Xue (FB 15) gave the audience an insight into the ecotoxicological analysis of water samples from the Taihu region (China), which is part of her research within the "Sino German Water Supply Network" (SIGN). The scholarships are funded by the Foundation for the Promotion of International Scientific Relations of the Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe University and grant the scholarship holders a temporary monthly support of 1000 Euro.

In her keynote speech, Prof. Maresi Nerad (Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education, University of Washington), chair of the GRADE Scientific Advisory Board, discussed the different roles of PhD supervisors. In addition to the challenge of supporting doctoral candidates on their career pathway, she mentioned the dimension of the employment relationship between supervisor and supervisee, and the necessity of advancing the personal development of early career researchers. In this respect, communication gaps and culturally specific taboos between the doctoral candidates and supervisors can be an obstacle. Prof. Nerad gave an outline of possible approaches to overcoming these obstacles, first of all by creating a safe communication environment.

In the following, all nominees were invited to the stage and in order ot honor them individually for their outstanding commitment to the supervision of their doctoral candidates. You cann find excerpts from the nomination texts here. Eagerly awaited, Dr. Sybille Küster finally anounces this year's winners, who received the check for the prize money of 2500 euros.

The Winners

In contrast to the previous awards, this year the selection committee decided to award the prize in three categories:

  •     All-round outstanding supervisor
  •     New-generation dissertation supervisor
  •     Life-long supervision achievement

The winner in the first category is Prof. Dr. Bernd Skiera (FB 02, Department of Marketing). In their nomination, his doctoral candidates emphasized his high scientific standards as well as his competence and comprehensive support in applying for third-party funding. They also praised his ability to engage in an open and critical exchange about possible career options in academia and outside the university.

The award in the category "New-generation dissertation supervisor" went to Prof. Dr. Sarah Speck (FB 03, Sociology). The nominators particularly highlighted her intensive and in-depth engagement with their research projects in addition to the appreciative, constructive, and productive feedback from their supervisor. They also noted Prof. Speck's high sensitivity to the issue of family friendliness, as well as her solution-oriented approach to particular personal challenges that may arise during the doctoral phase.

Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles (FB 15, Microbiology) was honored for his longstanding and continuously great achievements in the supervision of doctoral candidates at Goethe University. Those supervised by him particularly appreciated his efforts to establish numerous cooperative projects with national and international research groups and partners in industry. Equally positive, his doctoral candidates mentioned his willingness to grant them plenty of time to exchange ideas about their research projects and also have an eye on them maintaininig a good work-life balance.

The winners can look forward to the prize money of 2,500 euros, which is intended for the further support of Early Career Researchers at Goethe University.

Get Together

After the announcement of the award winners, all nominees presented themselves for a group picture. While enjoying cold drinks and a finger food buffet, the guests, the nominees and the award winners had the opportunity to exchange their thoughts and to let the event come to a festive end. Photos of the reception, the award ceremony and the get-together can be found in the picture gallery.

GRADE congratulates all nominees as well as the winners and thanks all visitors for a successful award ceremony, which contributed to the visibility of the topic of doctoral supervision at Goethe University.