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Heidelberg Alumni International


"I Highly Recommend Learning German"

Dr. Hadeel Khallouf

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Dr. Hadeel Khallouf

Hadeel Khallouf, pharmacologist, project manager in research and development at a pharmaceutical company

Doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University Hospital (2007 to 2011) and post-doc at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) (2012 to 2015)


How long have you been in Heidelberg now and what do you do?

I have been in Heidelberg since November 2007. First I got my PhD in oncology at the University, then I worked as a post-doc at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).


What did you do before coming to Heidelberg?

I grew up in Syria and studied pharmacy there. Then I went to Strasbourg in France, where I did a master's in pharmacology.


What made you choose Heidelberg University and the DKFZ?

After my master's I wanted to do my PhD in the field of cancer research and so I applied for doctoral programmes in different countries. I believe that it is always an amazing opportunity to live in a new country and discover a new language and culture. I chose Heidelberg University and the DKFZ because I believe they are both excellent institutions in the area of cancer research – not only in Germany, but worldwide, since they are both incredibly international. Plus I wanted to learn German and find out more about the country and its culture.


How has your experience in Heidelberg been so far?

Professionally speaking, I met some wonderful people – for example the Nobel Prize recipient Prof. Dr Harald zur Hausen, as well as Prof. Dr Jan Schmidt from the University Hospital and Prof. Dr Dirk Jäger from the National Centre for Tumour Diseases. I had the opportunity to work in a great research field – cancer immunotherapy – and I attended several very good national and international conferences. On the personal level, I have made amazing new friends, not only from Germany, but from all around the world. And on the whole I have become much more independent. Plus, I am happy that I decided to learn German from the very beginning, even though English is the primary language in my work. But I felt, and I still feel, that it's so important to talk with people outside of work, with people on the street, in a restaurant or at the market. You learn much more about a country when you speak the language – and of course that doesn't just apply to Germany, but everywhere!


What are some things that you have truly enjoyed so far and where do you see room for improvement?

I especially enjoy the freedom, the security and the international character, then I would have to say the natural beauty and the chance to meet people from very different backgrounds. 


How would you assess the German academic system compared to your home country or to other countries where you have already conducted research?

Compared to many other countries in Europe, in Germany there are definitely more opportunities for students and scholars to work and study. I think the main reason is because German doesn't pose a barrier for scientific research, since so many people are proficient in English. But I highly recommend learning German. Outside of work there is a lot of bureaucracy that you need to deal with where German skills come in handy. What I don't like about the German system – but also quite a few others: The post-doc stage can last one to twelve years and unfortunately it doesn't offer many appealing opportunities. And the path to becoming an adjunct professor or "Privatdozent" is incredibly long, complicated and full of bureaucratic hoops. Maybe that's why many German and international researchers move to different countries where assistant professor positions are more common. Scientific careers are not easy and they are very competitive. That's definitely something to be aware of. But people should also consider that experience in the academic world creates many other options and the possibility to work in other interesting capacities outside of academia. Ultimately, the most important thing is to stay flexible. And you can never go wrong by taking risks and collecting new experiences!


What do you think of the opportunities offered by Heidelberg Alumni International and the Research Alumni Network? Do you use them?

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the Research Alumni Conference in September 2015 in Berlin. The excellent organisation and real interest in the experiences of visiting international researchers was very impressive. It was a great opportunity for new impulses, to talk to other alumni and make new contacts. I especially enjoyed the topics "research alumni as multipliers" and "scientists as diplomats".

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Latest Revision: 2016-01-29
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