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50 years of Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences: The faces and stories

HSWT inside | Renate Herrmann

Working with the younger generation does me good

"I’m a fossil here," says Renate Herrmann with a chuckle. The microbiology and molecular biology laboratory technician is the longest-serving employee on the HSWT Triesdorf campus: She will have been at the university for 41 years this October. The Middle Franconia native joined HSWT at just 18 years of age as a dairy laboratory technician, initially responsible for the chemical and feed analysis internship. She has since witnessed enormous change on the campus and in her area of responsibility, and seen countless generations of students come and go. "Sometimes I supervise students whose father or mother did their internship with me," she says. She is also involved in training chemistry laboratory technicians, taking her back full circle to her own training.

Work is a fountain of youth

Working with young people is the thing she likes most about her job. "I think it keeps me young," she says. "Plus most of my colleagues are much younger than me. I am convinced that you are shaped by your environment. Working with the younger generation does me good." Notably, she is still in contact with lots of past trainees, and some students, years later and follows their careers. Whenever she discovers that one of her former charges has landed a good job, she is pleased for them: "I think to myself, wow, I played a small part in this young person’s success," she says, laughing. In general, she hopes that it will be easier in the future for the new generation to forge a career with training and work experience, without necessarily needing a degree.

She enjoys attending the celebratory events and certificate award ceremonies at the end of the year. "It’s like bringing in the harvest," says the 59-year-old, who grew up on a farm, smiling. "You have looked after them and supported them, and now these young people are ready to take on the world." Every year, she also hosts a BBQ in her garden at the edge of the forest for the trainees and colleagues from the laboratory to say farewell to the departing trainee after passing their final exam. Renate Herrmann’s husband takes charge of the food at this event, cheerfully supplying the 30 or so guests with steaks and Franconian sausages.

Above all, she appreciates the family-like community on the Triesdorf campus: "I think it’s extremely important that, despite all the developments and changes going on around us, we continue to maintain that." She does her bit to keep the community spirit going: she is one of the founding members of the 'Triesdorf Harmonists' university choir, for example, which sings at events like anniversary celebrations and the appointment of new presidents, as well as birthdays and leaving parties for colleagues and professors. Renate Herrmann particularly enjoys the children’s university and hands-on lab organised on Johannitag (Feast Day of St John the Baptist) each year in Triesdorf: "Everyone gets involved – from the professors to the apprentices."

Helping to shape the decades

As well as training new chemistry laboratory technicians, she also helps students conduct their laboratory experiments and assists with the practical implementation of bachelor’s and master’s theses. She also helps determine the content of laboratory practicals, for example when adapting exercises to new degree programmes or course content. Over the decades, her responsibilities have certainly changed a lot, partly because things have moved on in microbiology. "Nowadays, some of the techniques and procedures used in the laboratory are very different to in the past," she explains. "I am always learning, familiarising myself with new areas, completing new courses and exams. It’s a challenge, but one that makes my work so genuinely interesting."

One example of this is Renate Herrmann’s work in molecular biology: she has become more involved in this field over the past 12 years or so, and even helped to design the new molecular biology laboratory as well as developing the relevant experiments for the students. In general, she is glad that she has been able to experience and help shape the huge growth and associated changes on the Triesdorf campus over the decades. "I have always had the opportunity to contribute my ideas," she says. "Here at the university, I have experienced change the likes of which very few people will have done in their professional lives." She is extremely pleased with the progress made in occupational health and safety and has been on the relevant committee at HSWT for 14 years.

In her free time, the mother of two grown-up children likes to spend time with her husband in the great outdoors – whether hiking in the Canaries or cycling, swimming and walking in the Franconian Lake District. She also sings outside of the university, in the church choir. Of course, the time she gets to spend with her four grandchildren is particularly special. "Unfortunately they live quite far away, but that means it’s all the more exciting when they come to visit."