Podcast "We are TUM" – Transcript, thirteenth episode

“I'd say that vaccinations are one of the greatest scientific and medicinal achievements of humanity and we wouldn't be where we are today in medical terms if there had been no vaccination."

[Moderator Matthias Kirsch:] The woman we just heard is TU Munich student Katharina Tartler. She and her student group work to bring information to schools and other institutions on the topic of vaccinations and set the facts straight. This is because even though vaccinations are one of the most important inventions humanity has yet produced, more and more individuals are rejecting them. We'll hear more about why this is the case later in the episode. 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. But first, as always university President Thomas Hofmann will get things started by introducing the topics of today's episode to you.

[President Thomas Hofmann:] Welcome, dear listeners: Singapore is over ten thousand kilometers away from Munich. Nevertheless TUM scientists are currently working on converting the million-strong metropole Singapore to electro-mobility. These scientists will tell us how that will work. One of our international trademarks at TUM is the wide variety of companies that originate at our university. Sixty to seventy start-ups are founded here each year. One of the people who support the young TUM entrepreneurs is Alina Friedrichs. She's also the this episode's Hidden Champion. And we'll conclude by speaking with writing coach Dzifa Vode. At the end of each semester many students turn their thoughts to quotes, paraphrases and the correct way to cite sources. In our feature "Five Tips" the writing coach will give us specific advice on how to avoid plagiarism in term papers and tell us about what software is capable of in this area. And now I wish you an enjoyable listening experience with the latest episode of "We are TUM".

Cutting-Edge Research

[Kirsch:] Imagine Munich. A major city, of course, but with its population of one and a half million it's still not all that big. And nevertheless even here in Munich the transition to electro-mobility is a fairly difficult task. Logistics, political will, innovation: These are just some of the hurdles that have to be overcome. Two TUM scientists are currently taking on an even larger challenge. David Eckhoff and Tobias Massier are working on the electro-mobility conversion of Singapore, a city more than three times the size of Munich. My colleague Fabian Dilger speaks with them about how the conversion is to work and what the role of TUM is in the whole process.

[Dilger:] Dr. Massier, Dr. Eckhoff, greetings to Singapore. Thank you for finding the time to speak with us.

[Eckhoff:] Hello, it's a pleasure.

[Massier:] Hello Dr. Dilger, I'm looking forward to our conversation.

[Dilger:] Let's start with the question of how you commute to the office each day and how long the trip takes…

[Eckhoff:] I usually take a taxi. In Singapore taxis are actually a part of the public transportation system, so they're much less expensive than they are for example in Munich. After work right now I enjoy walking home as well. I don't live so far away, so it's possible.

[Massier:] In my case I take two bus lines. The trip usually lasts between 35 and 45 minutes, depending on traffic.

[Dilger:] And these two modes of transportation are both a part of your everyday work as well. Because ultimately, if we can put it this simply, you're researching how to completely convert the traffic system of the megacity Singapore.

[Eckhoff:] That's right. The big challenge that emerges here is how to convert a metropolis like Singapore from conventional drives, gasoline and diesel to electric drives. And that's no trivial issue. So Dr. Massier and I are working together on a way to master these challenges.

[Dilger:] What is so easy to investigate in Singapore that wouldn't also be possible in Germany? Why are the prerequisites especially good in Singapore?

[Massier:] One good thing it that we're talking about a very small and very self-contained system. This has less to do with culture or things like that. It's like a kind of sandbox. That means we know exactly where the boundaries are, the limits of the traffic system involved. And it's just much easier to build on an existing basis there or to develop something than it is when you have such a large system like Germany's, where there are connections between cities and many more traffic options, all the way to the airplane. Here in Singapore there's just local train, taxi, and bus service and then there are the occasional private ride-sharing services like Uber and Grab.

[Dilger:] Each of the two of you has developed a very important simulator for the conversion of traffic in Singapore. You could say they're shaping the course of this transformation. Let's start with you Dr. Eckhoff. What's your City Mobility Simulator capable of?

[Eckhoff:] Yes, we developed the CityMoS ourselves here at TUMCREATE. And the idea is to create a virtual playground, a digital twin of Singapore's transportation system on the computer which lets us play through various, let's call them what-if scenarios. In concrete terms that could be for example, what if we're asked: "Hey, which bus lines can we electrify?"  Then we can run the simulation and say: "Look, these bus lines are perfectly suited for electrification". Other bus lines are less optimal, maybe because they're too long, because the timing of the buses isn't right. Generally speaking, we developed the CityMoS because there were no other tools at the time, and there still aren't, which can represent an entire island like Singapore or an entire city in such a high degree of detail, in microscopic terms. Because electro-mobility impacts the individual. So I have to make decisions for myself: When do I charge my vehicle, how much battery do I have left, will it be enough for the next trip to work or back home. And that's why it's difficult to approach a situation like this with a macroscopic model. This means we have to simulate a large area with a high degree of detail. And that's exactly where the CityMoS comes in.

[Dilger:] Dr. Massier, your team is researching how electric vehicles can be integrated in Singapore's power system. What's the biggest hurdle you face when converting an entire megacity with almost six million residents to e-vehicles?

[Massier:] The difficulty on the grid side is that you don't know at what times of day and at what locations you have to expect any given amount of additional electric load as a result of this transition. And the extra load involved is also different for the various vehicle types. So if we look at private vehicles first, then they may possibly be charged at home, or in the buildings where the drivers work, if they drive their cars to work. But if we look at taxis or buses, it's a different picture. The buses will presumably be charged at their bus stations, which would mean that a very high load would occur in a small space are require very high on-site performance from the grid. This would very probably result in the grids being overloaded. And with taxis the load can occur anywhere, since taxis aren't tied to specific charging stations or train stations or the like. So it's very difficult to bring all that together and to predict what exactly will happen in the electric power system. That's the real challenge.

[Dilger:] Are there any examples of where your work has been applied in Germany?

[Eckhoff:] The exchange of technology and knowledge with TUM is of course very strong. And we have an ongoing project at TUM in connection with the CityMoS in particular. We've built a small CityMoS team at Prof. Knoll's Chair [of Robotics and Embedded Systems], where in a project we're observing in very concrete terms how to electrify a delivery fleet, in this example it's DHL, and what the effect on daily business would be. This is a combination project together with Siemens, DHL and Fachhochschule Dortmund / University of Applied Sciences and Arts, in which the CityMoS is really being practically utilized in analyzing questions in Germany.

[Massier:] TUMCREATE is a joint project between TU Munich and Nanyang Technological University. And this of course means that our work is being applied at the corresponding professorships in Munich as well. Thus for example our MESMO is also undergoing further development. The tool is open source, so anyone who wants to can get involved. And one idea is to also use it for Munich, for example for district heating networks or similar things and how the corresponding load-balancing mechanisms can be applied here.

[Dilger:] Dr. Massier, your scope will hopefully also be expanding over the next few years. The move is from a focus on mobility to an overall view of the entire energy supply for the state of Singapore.

[Massier:] Singapore is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement on the reduction of CO2 emissions. And here we want to explore alternatives in future programs. This could be importing electricity from other countries, for example from the region, maybe also from Australia. And there's also a project which is set for completion in the next few years. How about various synthetic fuels which could be imported, how about hydrogen. And here of course the question arises of how Singapore's overall energy system will change on the provision side as well as on the end-energy side.

[Dilger:] Dr. Massier, Dr. Eckhoff, thank you very much for speaking with us and all the best to you in Singapore.

Hidden Champion

[Kirsch:] Every year the TU Munich Entrepreneurship department accompanies approximately three hundred start-up projects. So it's hardly a surprise that so many start-ups emerge from the university's environment. But not all of these projects become reality. For example, in 2021 several hundred ideas ultimately ended up in 63 spin-offs. Alina Friedrichs of TUM Entrepreneurship knows what the difference between a project and a finished product is, and she shares her knowledge with my colleague Clarissa Ruge.

[Ruge:] Today I'm very much looking forward to our Hidden Champion conversation with Alina Friedrichs, Hidden Champion from one of the most interesting and fabled areas at TUM: Start-ups and Entrepreneurship. More precisely Alina Friedrichs works in the TUM Office for Research and Innovation, TUM ForTe, and is also in charge of start-up consulting. Hello Alina.

[Friedrichs:] Hi, I'm glad to be here.

[Ruge:] You teach what you do. You not only advise founders at TUM, you've also founded several companies yourself. Where does the drive come from?

[Friedrichs:] I think that a lot of people these days ask how they can on the one hand help drive change and on the other hand how their work can still stay self-determined. And that's also what drives me, why I always end up going back to start-ups, but also why I'm so glad to be with TUM start-up consulting and to have contact with so many start-ups and new ideas.

[Ruge:] Just the short version: What was your biggest mistake in your own founding process and what did you learn the most from?

[Friedrichs:] My first start-up was in the fashion business. We built a shopping community for fair and sustainable fashion, and in the beginning we completely underestimated the competition in the fashion market. With Zalando and Amazon there are already so many players and an awful lot of money in the market, and we just totally underestimated that. And that's also why at some point we realized that the whole thing just wouldn't be worth it in financial terms.

[Ruge:] That means your own experience, I'd say, can help anyone in the process of founding a start-up, right?

[Friedrichs:] I think it's possible to avoid many, many mistakes at the very beginning; that means as a start-up consultant you simply can and have to ask honest and direct questions which point the focus forwards, towards the crucial points which have to be kept in mind at the beginning of the founding process.

[Ruge:] Your specialty area is start-up consulting in the TUM Entrepreneurship program. At what stage of the project do you help students? Right after the initial idea, or later when the first obstacles appear?

[Friedrichs:] We really start at the beginning, when the idea is still in the process of forming. The important thing to us is that the idea is not just two days old, but rather that the person who comes to us has already put some work into it, has sized up the competition and ideally has also already put together a team.

[Ruge:] But now to be really specific: In what ways can TUM help with founding a start-up or with the problems that occur afterwards? What can you do or give to the students?

[Friedrichs:] First of all we support the students, and also alumni and researchers, with real one-on-one consulting. Then we provide support in the form of networks and mentors. We have an incubation program, we have consulting services which we provide and which can be used to make the first steps easier, to network.

[Ruge:] Which of these services did you appreciate the most in your own founding phase?

[Friedrichs:] I think it's totally important to have someone with you who understands where you want to go, who asks the right questions. So I think that start-up consulting already enormously helps keep the focus on the really important things at the beginning of the founding process. And the second thing is something that's also really important at the very beginning, and that's your network and the possibility to network with other start-up founders and also to provide experts, mentors…

[Ruge:] TUM offer students a wide selection of support services on the way to founding a start-up. Do students consciously decide on studying at TUM because they want to found a start-up later?

[Friedrichs:] TUM has made entrepreneurship a major and visible pillar in its own character. And I think a lot of students also intentionally decide in favor of TUM because they know that this is the ecocenter, that the support is here, that lots of expertise is here as well and that TUM very actively promotes start-up founding.

[Ruge:] And what would happen if you said, "Let's be honest: Come on, we really have to do more there," what would be an approach there?

[Friedrichs:] In recent years TUM has focused closely on technology start-ups and now the topic of social and ecological innovations is more in the spotlight. I think that can still do much, much more to drive positive change.

[Ruge:] Your favorite topic is sustainability. If you could wish for an idea that you could bring to market readiness as a start-up consultant, what would it be?

[Friedrichs:] Well, I'm generally fascinated by every person who decides to be entrepreneurial in order to solve a social or ecological problem, anyone who has the drive, the idealism. And what I find really fascinating is the technological innovations, for example alternatives to plastic or to meat, areas where we still simply have an enormous amount to investigate and which also actually make an effective contribution to preventing climate change.

[Ruge:] Thank you very much for the inspiration, thank you for speaking with us.

[Friedrichs:] It's been my pleasure.

The Young Perspective

[Kirsch:] Vaccinations are one of the most important inventions of science. They save lives and can annihilate specific diseases. But precisely because they're so successful, they sometimes also encounter acceptance problems, something we all observed during the Corona pandemic. TU student Katharina Tartler tells us why that's the case. She's the founder of the student group VACCtion, whose objective is to provide information and set the facts straight at schools and other institutions. My colleague Fabian Dilger speaks with her.

[Dilger:] Hello, welcome Ms. Tartler.

[Tartler:] Hello Mr. Dilger. I'm glad to be here.

[Dilger:] Ms. Tartler, I'd like to ask you to complete the following sentence: The meaning of the invention of vaccinations for history of humanity is…

[Tartler:] … an incredible sense of achievement. I'd say that vaccinations are one of the greatest scientific and medicinal achievements of humanity and we wouldn't be where we are today in medical terms if there had been no vaccination.

[Dilger:] Vaccinations are actually so successful that their success apparently damages their reputation. What is this paradox and how does it work?

[Tartler:] Yes, the paradoxical thing about it all is that vaccinations help us eliminate diseases or at least suppress them to the extent that they're no longer really present. But since these diseases are no longer present, they quickly disappear from people's minds, from their memories and then people forget what it's like to suffer from these afflictions and suddenly they think, yeah, that can't be as bad as all that, because as I said they no longer remember what it means to suffer under them. And that's why vaccination is in principle actually bad for itself, because it's ultimately really something good for humans.

[Dilger:] In Europe we have very good access to vaccinations, but people in the southern global hemisphere don't. Are we thus basically living under circumstances which are so good that we really can't appreciate the value of vaccinations?

[Tartler:] I think we actually are. Here we always find ourselves complaining about how good we have it - if we have to go to the hospital because of some "little thing". But we at least have the means to do something about it. We can effectively treat diseases and we can effectively protect ourselves by vaccination. And that's hardly the case in all the countries of the world. After graduating from high school I flew to Nepal do to social work. In the run-up I received an incredible number of vaccinations. So I never really thought about the fact that it shouldn't be taken for granted that here we have that kind of access to vaccinations. But when I arrived in Nepal and saw the pure poverty and the poor medical infrastructure, it became clear to me what an incredible privilege it is for us to have access to vaccinations and just in general to all the medical care and medicines we have.

[Dilger:] When we talk about educating people about vaccinations, we immediately think of the corona pandemic. But in fact you've been running the initiative, and now student group VACCtion since before corona. What was the original motivation to get started?

[Tartler:] We founded the group in 2019, which was actually a long and tedious process. My brothers kept sending me news clippings and the like on vaccination opponents and anti-vaxxer demos. And at some point I started to get kind of irritated, then I got angry. And finally I thought, OK, most people simply don't know any better – especially if you try to find information in the internet, you come across all kinds of conspiracy theories right away. So then I thought, there has to be something we can do about this. I wanted to apply the knowledge I gained in my studies, I studied Biochemistry, to educate people, to give them a sound basis for making their own decisions on vaccinations.

[Dilger:] The name of your student group, VACCtion, is a portmanteau word combining "Vaccination" and "Action". And you held your very first presentation in the seniors' club of your pastoral association. You also provide information in schools. How do you make it possible for people without a scientific background to understand what you have to say about vaccinations?

[Tartler:] I think it's enormously important first to explain how our immune system works. That's also every easy to illustrate, with small animated clips which we include in our presentations. And once people have understood how the basic function of the immune system actually functions, then it can be compared to the way a vaccination works, since vaccination works very much the same way and warns the immune system with more or less natural mechanisms. Once this whole thing has been made clear, then in principle the rest is easy to understand.

[Dilger:] Have you ever had a gratifying moment where someone came up to you after a presentation and said: "OK, you've convinced me!"?

[Tartler:] Sure, I certainly have. This wasn't at a school lecture, it was at a public online presentation. Every few months we give regularly scheduled online presentations to which everyone is invited, all age groups. And after the talk there was an elderly man who said: "Yes, that all actually makes a lot of sense" and added that he was now going to get vaccinated, and wanted to know which vaccination we could recommend to him. I'd like to add something, though: It's not our highest objective to convince everybody to vaccinate. We want to provide people with a foundation, with basic knowledge, so that they can then make their own decisions on vaccination.

[Dilger:] Do you also have support from the TUM professorate in handling your topics?

[Tartler:] Yes, Professor Zehn is an immunologist at Weihenstephan, and Professor Luksch is a neurobiologist, also at Weihenstephan. The reason for bringing professors on board is of course that we all have scientific backgrounds, we have a certain basic reserve of knowledge in connection with vaccinations and the immune system, but we're not specialized immunologists. So to make sure our presentations are one hundred percent right, that all the facts are correct, that the mechanisms we illustrate are shown correctly, we asked for support from specialists in immunology, like Professor Zehn.

[Dilger:] Ms. Tartler, Thank you for speaking with us, we wish you continued working with your student group.

Five Tips

[Kirsch:] We'll conclude this episode as always to our feature "Five Tips". And since the TUM exam season is well on the way and many students will soon have to turn in term papers, this time we'll turn to quotes and source citations. Writing coach Dzifa Vode shares five tips with my colleague Fabian Dilger on how to prevent plagiarism, cite a quote correctly and write a successful degree thesis.

[Dilger:] Ms. Vode, your head of the Writing Center at Nuremberg Institute of Technology. What do teachers at a university consider to be plagiarism? What criteria have to be met?

[Vode:] First we can take a look at how instructors notice something could be plagiarized in the first place. Usually they read papers from the beginning to the end, and then they notice something: A sudden change in style, suddenly different words and different terminology are used, that the text suddenly sounds much better than before or that all at once the grammar errors stop. Then they do some systematic research. In order for a text to qualify as plagiarized, the formulations have to be identical. This can be parts of a sentence or entire sentences or even several sentences at once. It can also be thoughts, ideas, work results. If no source is indicated, that's plagiarized.

[Dilger:] I see. And now how about your tips on how to be really safe about that.


[Vode:] My first tip has to do with the lengths of the paraphrases. Students often ask me, if they quote technical literature indirectly, whether or not they have to rephrase the content of the technical literature in their own words. And the question is, how different does it have to be? How close can what I say be to the phrasing in the original text? And sometimes there's also a question as to how many words can be identical. Of course there are no exact answers to this question. And of course you can use the same technical terms. But otherwise you should rearrange the sentence, use different syntax, maybe concentrate on the most important aspects, the things that are important to your work.


Tip number two would be to do a super-good job of documenting the technical literature when reading it from the very beginning. That may sound boring, but it's really the backbone of scientific work. The best thing to do is make a note somewhere of all the bibliographic information on any book you use. It can be on a good old-fashioned file card or in a computer file, Word or Excel or a literature management program, which I'd personally recommend. But the important thing is that you stick with one and the same system and don't switch, collect all the data at one place and make sure it's really done neatly.


Tip number three, when paraphrasing, making an indirect quote, there's often some notion that you have to backshift or use the subjunctive to indicate the reported speech. But that's not the case when dealing with scientific quotes and references. So if I were to quote you, Mr. Dilger, maybe you said "The sky is blue". And then in my scientific text I write "According to Dilger, the sky was blue", then it almost sounds as if I'm trying to distance myself a little bit from his opinion, as if that "weren't really the case". So in scientific texts when it comes to a statement that I also accept, I can simply use the present, indicative case and make it clear whom I'm quoting: "Dilger says the sky is blue". As long as I quote Dilger as my source and make clear what Dilger said, I'm on the safe side.


[Dilger:] Let's take a quick look at a specific case. I've found a great research quote that I'd like to use, but I only have it second-hand. That means I don't have direct access to the original source. What do you recommend to students in a situation like this?

[Vode:] That depends on whether it's at the beginning of the preparation period and they still have all the time in the world, then I say: Get going and start looking. Laziness is no reason to make a second-hand quote. It's your responsibility to locate original sources. That's the only way you can check to see that what you want to quote is really present in that form in the original source. You'd be amazed how often errors are repeated and transmitted again and again, cited time and again, because nobody has taken the time to consult the original source. But of course if your submission deadline is tomorrow and you find the perfect quote at the last minute, then you can go ahead and quote, citing the second-hand source. If that happens once or twice in your paper, it's usually not a problem, but you shouldn't do it throughout the entire composition.


Tip number five is on plagiarism detection software. These days you'll find plenty of vendors of plagiarism detection software in the internet. And of course I understand the desire to upload your own text and subject it to a sort of external quality check. But the only thing plagiarism detection software can do is to look for instances of matching text. That means it can detect direct quotes of other texts which exist online. So if for example you've completely copied something from a book which hasn't yet been digitalized, the plagiarism detection software won't detect it. The same will happen if you've changed things around and put them in your words but still forgotten to cite the source, well, the software won't find that either. So you may receive a false-negative result, plagiarism may not be detected, even though you may have some in your text. This will give you a false sense of security. Or you may receive a false-positive result: That means it looks like your text contains plagiarized passages but in reality they're they actually totally innocuous, general phrasings that can appear in any scientific work.

[Dilger:] So if we take your tips to heart, we don't usually need any software to check what we write. Ms. Vode, thank you for these tips on how to avoid plagiarism in scientific writing.

[Kirsch:] 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 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!


Technical University of Munich
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