UNITE! Virtual Research Encounter

Joint colloquium for two UNITE! partners


Aspiring scientists from two UNITE! partners – TU Darmstadt und the Universidade de Lisboa (ULisboa) – have been bought together in a Research Encounter by the Junior Research Group SEE-URBAN-WATER at the Institute of Applied Geosciences in the Department of Materials and Earth Sciences at TU Darmstadt. The aim was for the Research Encounter “Roofs, walls and open space – Green Infrastructures and Nature-based Solutions in urban areas” to act as a platform for exchanging information on ongoing research projects and thesis projects and also for encouraging interdisciplinary and international discourse. The two organisers of the event, TU Professor Jochen Hack and Professor Cristina Matos Silva from ULisboa, look back on the first colloquium of this type in the following interview.

The Research Encounter was exclusively virtual (symbol image).

Professor Hack, Head of the Ecological Engineering Section and the Junior Research Group SEE-URBAN-WATER, which is funded by the BMBF, was specifically looking for someone with similar research interests in advance of this joint colloquium. He found the ideal partner in Professor Cristina Matos from the Instituto Superior Técnico and the Green Infrastructure Research Group at ULisboa. Three students from each of the two research groups agreed to present their latest research work. Around 40 students participated virtually in the Research Encounter as the audience.

What motivated you to hold this event?

Professor Hack: I have used the “Research Encounter” format as part of my teaching and research work at TU Darmstadt for my research group and students over the last two years as a recurring platform that allows them to exchange information on ongoing research and thesis projects. This special event format generated a great deal of interest amongst our students and offers us a very good opportunity to identify links between different research work that deals with the same themes or contexts and to provide those students who are looking for a theme for their thesis with more information. In the UNITE! Virtual Research Encounter, this format has now been used for the first time as a tool for exchanging information and networking between two research groups and groups of students at two different universities.

Professor Matos Silva: I saw it as an opportunity to discuss ongoing research topics, needs and outputs. Besides exchanging information on ongoing research, I believe these research encounters can put together researchers from different universities and boost future cooperation.

Were you pleased with the first joint Research Encounter?

Professor Hack: It went very well overall. We were very pleased with the content and form of the talks and the interaction between the participants. As hoped, it resulted in a lively discussion and it enabled us to efficiently identify possible areas for future cooperation. It may be better to reduce the length of the event in future by one or two talks because it lasted four and a half hours overall and felt extremely long with only very short breaks. However, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students and they have even asked whether we can certify participation in the event.

Professor Matos Silva: I think it was a success! We had almost 40 participants during about four hours, nobody gave up during the event. I already have some feedback from students who went and looked up publications from the participants in the event and wanted to use similar approaches in their ongoing work.

Do you aim to continue the event in the future?

Professor Hack: My colleague from ULisboa and I believe that the event was a great success and we would be pleased to repeat the format in future. It may be useful to select one or two main themes for the next Research Encounter so that we could cover these themes in more depth. In contrast, the main focus of the first Research Encounter was to promote a comprehensive exchange of information on a variety of different themes.

Professor Matos Silva: We want to establish a collaboration. For now, we are thinking of doing it through common students and future Research & Development calls.

What benefits do you think UNITE! offers?

Professor Hack: UNITE! supports the organisation and communication of the event. I believe that the opportunity to receive methodological and didactical support and also the additional resources required for this purpose is another benefit. In the future, it will hopefully be possible to use UNITE! to promote real academic mobility.

Professor Matos Silva: UNITE focuses on gathering know-how from different parts of the world. As a Professor and researcher at the University this is a must for me.

Do you have any other ideas in this area?

Professor Hack: Another idea would be the development of a joint research and/or teaching project with shared use of digital infrastructure (e.g. for managing, sharing and analysing data).

Professor Matos Silva: I believe it would be interesting to have a similar event in about six months with other ongoing work of students, because it will manage to join most of the ones that participated this time (I guess they will still be working in this field) and new ones. Besides, since this first event was a success, I think more people will want to be involved, maybe even from industry or municipalities.

The Virtual Research Encounter “Roof, walls and open space – Green Infrastructures and Nature-based Solutions in urban areas” was recorded and can be viewed at.

The interview was conducted by Mareike Hochschild