Podcast "We are TUM" – Transcript, fifteenth episode

"I think the most frequent cliché I hear is: How long do you have to live or study in Weihenstephan before you become a Master Brewer? The idea is that it's not really about the content of the university curriculum, but it's just enough to live in the Weihenstephan area and that will make you an expert on beer."

[Matthias Kirsch:] That's Jakob Schwarz, who has a degree in beer brewing. His training and beer expertise come from Weihenstephan, where TU Munich offers the degree program Brewing and Beverage Technology. In this episode Jakob Schwarz talks about why brewery is not only for beer fanatics and which beer clichés are not even close to true. Welcome to "We are TUM", the podcast by and for the Technical University of Munich. My name is Matthias Kirsch and I'll be guiding you through this podcast. As always university President Thomas Hofmann will get things started by introducing the other topics of today's episode to you.

[President Thomas F. Hofmann:]
Welcome, dear listeners: We often hear that science strives to obtain the truth. But a frequent function of science is simply to dispel older notions and come up with new findings. Parts of our society nevertheless appear to regard scientific facts with more and more skepticism. Do people today really trust science less than in the past? We discuss the issue with TUM researcher Stefan Esselborn and his colleague Sascha Dickel of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. This episode's Hidden Champions make sure that employees and students at TUM stay as healthy as possible. Nina Schaller and Anika Berling-Ernst from the university health project "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" tell us why small habits can have a large impact on our health. We conclude this episode with a trip abroad – more exactly, preparing for studies abroad. What do students have to keep in mind when planning an Erasmus semester or a semester abroad? Our guest Stephan Geifes from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) shares his tips with us and helps pave the way to a successful experience abroad. Enjoy listening to the latest episode of "We are TUM"!

Cutting-Edge Research

[Kirsch:] A new concept has emerged in the great social debate over the past few years. Again and again we hear about a "post-factual age", i.e. an age when objective truths are ignored. The question of how knowledge is established and rendered credible is thus highly current for science in general. The research group "Evidenzpraktiken" ("Evidence Practices") addresses precisely the subject on an interdisciplinary and cross-university basis. Stefan Esselborn from TUM and Sascha Dickel from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz speak with my colleague Clarissa Ruge about trust in science as an institution and about the similarities between our current debate and the debates of previous eras.

[Clarissa Ruge:]
Mr. Dickel, why do so many people decide not to trust science in regard to so many controversial topics?

[Sascha Dickel:]
Here's an example: Imagine you go to the doctor because you're ill, but you don't really even know the doctor. Why should you actually trust this person? And sociology's answer to this question is that you have trust in the institution of science. When people decide to no longer trust science, that doesn't necessarily really have to do with the specific person in question, but rather it could also be that precisely this trust in science as an institution is not automatically there anymore.

And how can we know what credible knowledge is?

[Stefan Esselborn:]
We could perhaps summarize the situation roughly in three points. There are institutional possibilities, that means I trust the institution which has produced this knowledge; correspondingly I hold this knowledge to be credible. A second alternative: This trust can be the result of a methodological assessment, I see how this knowledge was generated and I regard the method used as a credible one. One very important example here is scientific method. And you could call the third possibility participative: I have the possibility of taking part in the generation of this knowledge, being involved in the process, and as a result I believe in the outcome. And of course you could also say that these three elements can be mixed in various ways. From a historical point of view, the element which is being emphasized always changes. For example, if you look at very early science, participation is very important, in the form of public experiments and the like. This changes depending on where you happen to be at the time.

Can complex scientific contexts and evidence critiques be conveyed to the general public at all and if so, why does this appear to fail so often?

This is exactly the core focus of our research group. We want to find out exactly how knowledge becomes credible. This is what we understand evidence practices to be: The ways in which knowledge is made credible. And if you take a good look at the modern world, then I'd have to say that this trust in institutions which generate knowledge is actually the dominant element, the dominant form of how we attribute credibility to knowledge. This is because the majority of substantive questions are so complex that each one of us is a layperson. Even as a scientist, I myself am an absolute layperson when it comes to the majority of scientific questions. That means I have no other choice but to trust what other scientists say to me. In most cases, I'd say, we're pretty much dependent on our trust in the credibility of institutions.

What has changed about the relationship between science, the public and media since the 1980s?

From our point of view it might be even more interesting to ask what hasn't changed. If we look back to the 1970s, 1980s, then we notice right away how many similarities and parallels there actually are here. And of course that's not pure coincidence. In historical science it has long been common knowledge that the 1970s were in many respects a kind of transitional period in which new constellations emerge, in which new topics are addressed. In abstract terms something like the debate on participatory opportunities in science or for example medial filter bubbles, if you want to call it that, i.e. the idea that people bury themselves in their own media universe and are then very hard to reach. These are actually all issues which you can already find in public discussions back then.

Speaking of research groups: You've been in a research group with 24 scientists for six years now. Last April you presented the results. What will you miss most in terms of research and collaboration after you're done?

Oh, I'm sure what I'll miss most is the highly intensive, interdisciplinary work. Especially when you work with people from other fields, you notice just exactly how much of a layperson you are yourself, how little you know or understand about the means and methods others use to arrive at their actual findings. And that was an extremely productive period, looking at something like this closely and then discussing it with one another again and again.

I have to say, I feel exactly the same way. This shared viewpoint on a theoretical topic helped me quite a bit in developing new perspectives based on the ones emerging from the context of my own field. I'm sure I'll miss that, of course, in addition to working together with my colleagues.

Thank you both for speaking with us.

Hidden Champion

[Kirsch:] Stay healthy to live healthy. That's not just a hobby you can relegate to your free time, you can live a healthy lifestyle anywhere and anytime. You can even do something for your health while studying or working at the university. And it's often a question of the little things which can become habits. My colleague Fabian Dilger speaks with Nina Schaller and Anika Berling-Ernst about how that happens and what TU Munich has to offer in this regard. This episode's Hidden Champions talk about the "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" university health project, a service offered by TUMgesund, TU Munich's health management program.

[Fabian Dilger:] Welcome Ms. Berling-Ernst, welcome Ms. Schaller. Ms. Berling-Ernst, when someone pays as much attention to health issues as you do, then you probably see compulsion and temptation lurking around every corner…

[Anika Berling-Ernst:] No, of course it's not like that. Naturally, I'm more sensitive and reflective about the topic, in particular working together with my colleague Nina Schaller, who's a nutrition scientist. My background is in sports, where we all generally encourage one another to ride the bike to work, stay active, take the stairs instead of the elevator. And you have to keep looking at the positive side of things: In the last ten, fifteen years there has been incredible progress in terms of corporate health promotion, possibilities for employees to stay active in the workplace.

[Dilger:] Ms. Schaller, the "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" project is different from the TUM Corporate Health Management program. How did the project come about? Who's in charge of what in the project?

[Nina Schaller:] The project is actually part of TUMgesund. Back then our Medical Director, Professor Halle, had the vision of supporting a "healthy university" and as such wanted to offer a variety of different measures promoting employee health. Then we took a look at which structures already existed and as a result came into contact with TUMgesund, the actual corporate health management structure at TU Munich. And in parallel there were conversations with the health insurance carrier TK / Techniker Krankenkasse, which is also very active in the university environment. And then we launched a joint partnership in the form of the "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" project.

[Berling-Ernst:] And it's thanks to our partners TK / Techniker Krankenkasse and TUMgesund that we're able to offer all these sports courses as well as all our other measures. We're very, very grateful to our partners.

[Dilger:] So what does the project "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" have in its portfolio? Give us three examples of things you can use to make all of us at TUM healthier…

[Berling-Ernst:] Well, we have a variety of different things in the area of structural and behavioral prevention. We've offered a variety of sports courses, both online and in-person. We have a sports box at the Garching site which participants can borrow. And of course our highlights, we have the "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" forum which we already conducted once in 2018.

[Schaller:] And now the "TUM Gesunde Hochschule" project exists, but not yet at all the TUM sites, only at one.

[Berling-Ernst:] Right. It was originally intended to be a pilot project and we chose a single site, the Garching campus, where we could implement our measures within a manageable timeframe and where there are good structures and personnel support. And in the meantime we've been very successful. The project has been ongoing there since 2017. It's still also possible to request individual elements of our project for other sites or to implement them at these sites as well.

[Dilger:] If you pay close attention walking through the Garching campus, you occasionally notice your posters in which you urge people to take the stairs instead of using the elevator.

[Schaller:] We want the stair campaign, which we initiated in Garching and which we in the meantime want to expand to other TUM sites, to give employees a slightly playful reminder to take the stairs instead of riding the elevator – this kind of encouragement is called "nudging". We intend these small measures to make behavioral changes on a very modest level which will however have a major effect in the long run.

[Dilger:] That sounds good, when I take the stairs once instead of calling the elevator. But how do you get people to really change their behavior on a long-term basis?

[Berling-Ernst:] That's a very good question, one which science has been examining for quite some time already. We always hear the well-intentioned New Year's resolutions. And then the sign-up statistics in the health clubs shoot up. Then, no later than three or four weeks later – one or two months for the good ones – the first participants resign and the resolution is history. Permanently maintaining bodily activity is indeed a challenge. We hope these campaigns will be an initial stimulus to take a first step in the right direction. We hope that the employees will gradually notice the positive effects, climbing the stairs will get easier and easier, you don't stop to think every morning, shall I take the stairs, it becomes a matter of course, it just evolves.

[Dilger:] Every individual can do something to improve the health situation at their workstation. But there are still other, more substantial levers you can put into motion, i.e. working with managers.

[Schaller:] Exactly. In the project we're also trying to put a targeted emphasis on approaching managers, since they have an influential role in the implementation and support of health measures. This means on the one hand the managers have set a good example and have a good lifestyle. And on the other hand managers are also responsible for creating opportunities for health measures in the first place and making sure employees receive the appropriate measures and training programs.

[Dilger:] Ms. Schaller, Ms. Berling-Ernst, Thank you for speaking with us, and stay healthy!

[Schaller:] Thank you for having us!

[Berling-Ernst:] Yes, thank you very much.

The Young Perspective

[Kirsch:] Bavaria is beer country, that goes without saying. And TUM is one of the few universities in all of Germany where students can get involved with beer on an academic basis. But the Brewing and Beverage Technology degree program at the TUM Weihenstephan campus isn't limited to just beer. Jakob Schwarz, educated as a brewer and maltster, earned his Master's degree in Brewing at TU Munich; he speaks with my colleague Fabian Dilger about clichés and about old and new traditions in brewing.

Hello, Mr. Schwarz.

[Jakob Schwarz:]
Hello – thank you for inviting me today.

Mr. Schwarz, when studying Brewing and Beverage Technology people probably hear a lot of clichés when they tell people about their chosen subject. What are some of the funniest or most ridiculous things you hear?

I think the most frequent cliché I hear is: How long do you have to live or study in Weihenstephan before you become a Master Brewer? The idea is that it's not really about the content of the university curriculum, but it's just enough to live in the Weihenstephan area and that will make you an expert on beer. And the second cliché, one I always find very amusing, is that I don't even have a beard. Over the last few years it's become a mega-cliché that all kinds of totally urban-hip Master Brewers with beards are showing up looking totally cool. I can say that most of my fellow students didn't have beards, especially in the foodstuffs field, where you'd have to wear a hair net and a beard net as well.

Now the clichés bring us to the topic of beer. Is the assumption that brewing means brewing beer – something we probably all have somewhere in the back of our minds when it comes to this study program – is that true, or does brewing involve a lot more?

I'd say it's true in part. Brewery really is our focus subject, the topic of beer. But we also learned a whole lot about producing non-alcoholic beverages, for example water, juices, nectars. In the elective courses we had the chance to specialize on narrower topics. I had a very fascinating elective course on wine, I was able to visit a lecture on spiritous beverage technologies, where we gained insights into the various beverages. Once you leave the area of beverages a little bit, then there are adjacent degree programs which have some of their lectures together with us, especially the technical parts. Here we dealt more with foodstuffs, for example milk: Even though milk is liquid, it's still considered a foodstuff. And we also had bioprocess technology students who conduct the fermentation processes for things we don't drink. But these topics are still all somehow connected with brewing.

The Brewing degree program is hardly an everyday subject. Tell us about the kind of the people who choose the degree program and what the motivation to pick a specialized subject area like that would be?

The make-up of the program is highly diverse. I had classmates from here in Munich, who were familiar with the university and thus also knew the degree program, since in the context of TUM they constantly heard that it's possible to study Brewing and Beverage Technology here. And I also had classmates from northern Germany. There was a wide variety in the people who made up our degree program. I had classmates who were incredibly interested in technical issues and who probably found the degree program by searching the internet: Our curriculum is highly technical. We learned an incredible amount of physics, chemistry and biology. So if you've specialized on subjects like that in your secondary school studies, it could result in you being interested in studying brewery at the university. I think these days the internet makes a lot of things possible. And on the other hand a certain enthusiasm for the product, whether for beer or for non-alcoholic beverages, could also be a factor.

So in academic terms you should have a certain interest in the natural sciences. But what are some of the character traits which would be good to have if you plan to study brewery?

In my opinion a certain openness to all kinds of topics is always good. There are a lot of innovations and trends in the beverage industry. If you go through life with your eyes wide open, that's definitely an exciting aspect. And from my perspective many Master Brewers are very gregarious. That means when they meet up with one another, they always have a lot of fun and if you're that kind of a person, then you'll of course also be welcome in Weihenstephan…

Brewing beer is a very old craft which includes a lot of tradition and traditional values. Are there traditions like that in the degree program as well, maybe of more modern origin?

Brewers and Master Brewers are very traditional. For many long years we've been following the rules of the Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian Brewing Purity Law. Another tradition has emerged in Weihenstephan in recent years: Every student who graduates in the subject of Brewing, Food Technology and Bioprocess Technology at Weihenstephan is presented with a 1-liter beer stein at the graduation ceremonies. Graduation also includes the Summer Festival for the Brewery students, organized by the Departmental Student Council. And that's a very big and fitting conclusion to a long degree program.

The Brewery degree program is certainly rare in Germany. Freising is one of a very small number of sites to offer it. In your opinion, what makes the city and the TUM campus there such a good, or even perfect site?

Freising has had beer in its veins since time immemorial. On Beer Day the city of Freising puts on a major festival in the city to celebrate the Brewing Purity Law, where the entire law is read aloud. And the university has grown up around the brewery, the state brewery. That's why so much knowledge relating to beer has accumulated here, including the Professorship for Brewing and Beverage Technology; over the years this structure has grown an incredible amount and a great lifestyle has evolved around the topic of beer in Freising. We have very many beer gardens, although that's really a general part of Bavarian tradition.

Mr. Schwarz, thank you for sharing your insights with us.

Thank you for having me, it was a pleasure.

Five Tips

[Kirsch:] As always, we'll conclude today's episode with our feature 'Five Tips'. Our topic this time is spending a semester abroad, an item that's near the top of many students' wish lists of things they'd like to do during their studies. But of course the idea of a stay in Lisbon, Bruges or Marrakesh raises quite a few questions. How far in advance will I have to plan? How will I pay for the stay abroad? And what alternatives are there to the classic semester abroad? We'll hear answers to the most important questions from Stephan Geifes, Director of the National Agency for Erasmus+ at the German Academic Exchange Service, the DAAD.

I'm speaking today with Stephan Geifes of the German Academic Exchange Service about the topic of a semester abroad. Mr. Geifes will be giving us some tips on what to keep in mind. Let's start off with a question for you, Mr. Geifes: I can imagine that you yourself have more than a little experience living abroad. How did it all start for you?

[Stephan Geifes:]
That's right, I spent not only one but several semesters abroad. I went for a year very early in my studies, then I added another internship later, both times in France. And I later did post-graduate studies at a university in France.


My first and also the most important tip for successful studies abroad is that you have to get started with planning early. And early means as a rule one year in advance. A year in advance to gather information on what you can do abroad, what you want to do abroad. And also to answer questions about how to finance the trip and how to make sure that as much as possible of what you studied abroad is also accepted at home after your return. Once you've determined what you want to do and where, my second tip, so that you can really make it happen, is to handle the financial aspects.


Here there are a number of different possibilities, in case you can't or don't have to finance the trip yourself. The first possibility is contacting BAföG. Here it's important to keep in mind that the maximum assessment basis for foreign BAföG is higher than for national BAföG. So that's a possibility to look into, perhaps being able to apply for foreign BAföG in order to study abroad. The second major possibility is the Erasmus program. Thousands of students every year are supported in Europe and around the world. Furthermore, the DAAD offers additional scholarships with higher grant amounts for individual projects and highly specific curricula. Here there's a quality-based selection process, the best candidates are chosen. And the applications are handled centrally through the German Academic Exchange Service. So there are three possibilities: BAföG, Erasmus and German Academic Exchange Service.

Most students think initially about a semester abroad, that's the familiar option, the classical variation. But there are plenty of other possibilities as well. Tell us about a few…


Third, you should think about how long you'd like to be abroad. That can be a single semester, it can be two, it can also be significantly less time or significantly longer. The semester is an option, but you can go for more or less time. When I was studying, we always talked about a year abroad, i.e. two semesters. One semester is possible and in the Erasmus program two semesters are also possible. That's the usual case in the Bachelor's and Master's areas and in doctoral programs. You can go abroad to study, but you can also go abroad for an internship. Both options are eligible for funding under the Erasmus program.

And for those who still haven't quite decided yet, there is also the option of starting off maybe with a summer school or winter session abroad, gathering initial experience and then deciding between one or two semesters at a later time. A third option which is very popular, but also very demanding, is to complete a double degree. In these programs you usually study one half the time at your home university and the other half at the partner university and then you receive degrees from each of the universities.


A fourth tip is to look at what happens in the course of the degree program. It could be that you continue your degree program during the semester abroad, but it might also make sense to gather practical experience first, for example in an internship. That's eligible for support in the Erasmus program as well. The Erasmus program even offers the option of doing an internship after graduation. All you have to do is apply as long as you're still enrolled at the university.


My fifth tip has to do with the value created by studying abroad. Why should I go abroad? Certainly not to do the same thing I would have done at home. It's about something else. It's about having different experiences. And that includes accepting that things work differently in other places and, in spite of the best planning, everything doesn't always work the way we want it to work. And learning to be able to accept things, to stay open, learning that things which happen in foreign countries may not seem that good at first. And you'll have to simply confront that. I think learning to accept all that is a central part of the value created in studying abroad. I myself never felt as German as when I was abroad. Today I can better understand why we Germans are the way we are, and why for example the French are different. And once I learned that I was ready to meet different people from different cultures or people who just thought differently from the way I do. And I don't even know how they do it, but I know that other people can be different. Then the value created by my studies abroad will pay off throughout an entire lifetime.

Thank you for speaking with us and for the valuable tips on the topic of studying abroad, Mr. Geifes.

And thank you for the opportunity to share these tips. And I wish everyone who chooses to study abroad a wonderful time.

And that's it for this episode of "We are TUM". In the next episode we'll once again be showcasing TUM's cutting-edge research, student life and we'll be speaking with all those who make TU Munich the unique place that it is. This has been "We are TUM". This episode was produced by Fabian Dilger, Clarissa Ruge, Pro-Lehre Medienproduktion and by me, Matthias Kirsch. Sound-Design and post-production by Marco Meister at Edition Meister in Berlin. That's all until the next episode. Make sure to join us and discover the big and little secrets of the Technical University of Munich!


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