Marcel Prinz has been studying at Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) since the beginning of his studies, in the bachelor’s degree course in paper technology and in the Master’s degree course in paper technology. Now he is 26 years old and about to complete his doctorate.

Hello Marcel, are you from Munich or from the surrounding area?

Hello, no I moved here, originally I am from Düren. A city between Aachen and Cologne.

How long have you been studying at the university?

I started in 2012. That was 8 years ago. Now I’m in my third year of my doctorate studies. If everything goes well, it will be my last year.

How did you come to the Bachelor of Science in Paper Technology?

The city of Düren, where I come from, is a paper making town. My father also worked in a paper factory there and often took me to an open day or a voluntary internship.

Did you like studying there from the very beginning?

I think the first two semesters are a bit difficult for everyone. It’s all about basics and fundamentals, including math, physics and chemistry and only very few subjects specific to paper technology. You just have to make it. It was mainly repetition from high school and I was a bit unsure whether I had made the right decision.

What is the situation with the doctorate? Did you enjoy your doctorate throughout?

There are dry spells as well. Especially when experiments don’t produce the results you expected which you would have to explain in consequence, you need a lot of patience. Or even if you can’t explain it, you have to accept that and leave it to others. All in all, I am very lucky with the choice of topic and the support from the industry. I always like doing that what I do makes sense and has potential for a doctorate.

Should life fit into work or work into life?

The connection between private life and working life is always a good question. For me, it is also the case that the family is also on the move in this industry, so there is no clear separation between leisure and work. For me, work and private life belong together. I also enjoy spending my free time with colleagues. Therefore, work should fit into life, but I cannot clearly separate the two. This seems almost impossible nowadays.

What was your favourite subject at university?

Actually a lot depends on the professors. I always found the lectures of Professor Dr. Zollner-Croll great, because she teaches very well and captures people’s attention. You always have the feeling that she knows a lot about what she is talking about and that you can learn a lot. From a technical point of view I found the lecture on tissue paper very interesting. A majority of that lecture was also presented by industry specialists. That’s how you get the latest knowledge. This is especially great in this Master course, you are very close to the industry.

How do you organise yourself during your studies? What is difficult about it?

I think of myself as very organised. I always have a plan of what is to come when, and a very clear life plan. I already know now very well what I want to do after the doctorate and where I want to go. That has always been the case. I already knew in my Bachelor’s degree that I wanted to do my doctorate. A semester abroad was also always planned, so I went to Australia. I have always planned a lot into the future, of course not everything always worked out, but most of it was quite good.

Was it difficult to settle into student life at the beginning of your studies?

Through the Aktivitas, an association of paper students for students, it worked very well to get to know fellow students. It was very easy to make contacts with students in the higher semesters. That was very great and is a huge advantage of the course. For me in particular it was a bit more difficult, because I did competitive sports besides my studies. At that time I was still living in Augsburg and always commuted. So it was a bit more difficult to take the student life as you know it completely with you. But I did not really miss it that much. With the competitive sport I stopped with the change to the Master. I also moved to Munich to focus more on my studies. For my doctorate I moved back to Augsburg.

Are you socially committed at the university?

Ever since I moved to Munich, I’ve slid into the activist board. As first chairman. I did that for three years. Since that year I’ve retired a bit to pass the reins to the next generation. At the moment I’m still available for advice and support. Since this year I have been elected to the main association as a member of the board. Now I am secretary of the VPM (Vereinigter Papierfachverband München). All former students of the VPM can become members. Most of them are as well.

Have you done a semester abroad? Where? What were your impressions? What could you take along for yourself?

I did a semester abroad after my Master thesis because I wanted to have this experience and it was not possible in the Bachelor’s degree because of sports. Then I spent three months in Australia in a tissue paper factory where I was allowed to help with various projects. After that I spent three months on holiday in Australia and got to know the culture and improved my English. It is simply one of the most beautiful memories I have. I can only recommend it to everybody.

Is it difficult to find a doctorate with a cooperative university?

In my case it was quite easy. We have very good contacts with the cooperative universities in the department. Especially our study programme has very good cooperations there. My predecessor worked together with Graz University of Technology, he had just finished when I wanted to continue. So I simply took over the doctoral supervisor and the university. My doctoral mother helped organise everything and established contacts, as well as accompanying me to meetings. She really supported me.

What do you do in your research work?

In my research work I am dealing with hygienic paper. Especially with softness and how you can influence it on a material level.

Do you have many cooperations with companies?

As already mentioned, through the Aktivitas we have had specialist lectures almost every week. Companies introduce themselves and you get to know the people. Through these personal meeting you have a completely different access to such companies. You know who you are talking to, what the companies consider important and in which area they are active. This way you know relatively well about the future employers after your studies. My company, where I am doing my doctorate, also introduced itself here.

Did you find it difficult that the Master’s is in English? Is it perhaps even an enrichment for you? How is it to study with so many international students?

At first I was a bit worried. Foreign languages in general were never my favourite subject at school, I was more of a scientist who was more into numbers than languages. But I knew that you can’t really get past the English language. The Master’s was a good opportunity for me to work on my English. It worked out quite well, you got through it well, even if you are not a language specialist. Very few of the students are native speakers, so if you make a mistake, it’s not too bad. There is always a little bit of group division between the Germans and the internationals, and since many of them know each other from their bachelor’s degree, it can easily happen. But since it is a very small group and you do many activities like excursions together, you still get to know each other well.

Where did you do your practical semester?

I did it in Augsburg because of the sport. At the company UPM. It’s a company that produces graphic papers. During my practical semester I did different projects. All of them were optimization processes in the different paper production processes and I was able to get to know the complete process. As well as the people and learn why you study it and what is important. I was in a new department almost every week, so I was able to gain many impressions.

What does success mean to you?

To have the feeling that what you do is important for the company you will work for later. That you are simply appreciated and considered valuable. As well as being able to help the company.

What are your impressions about studying?

Some lectures are really great and you learn a lot for the future. Some of it is just like at school, however and you ask yourself why am I doing this now and why am I learning this now. You often wonder if this is really necessary. Only later does it turn out that you can use all of it.

What is the biggest difference to school?

Independence. In school, everything is actually always clear to do. At university you are much more on your own. You have to make sure that you learn as much as possible in the lectures, for your later job and your future tasks. You have to learn this and you have to keep up and be able to motivate yourself. There is nobody who constantly insists that you do it.

The interview was conducted by Anna-Sarah Charlotte Weigel (summer semester 2020).