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International partnership celebrates first graduate

Matthias Hermann (MSc’17) poses with his invention – a device which detects cadmium in drinking water. (University Communications)
Matthias Hermann (MSc’17) poses with his invention – a device which detects cadmium in drinking water. (University Communications)

A quick glance at Matthias Hermann’s resume shows he’s not afraid of the occasional international adventure.

Since beginning his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in his native Germany in 2011, Mr. Hermann (MSc’17) has conducted short-term research projects in China and Australia, as well as his home country. Recently, he added Canada to the list after completing a dual degree master’s program in Chemistry – a partnership between Queen’s University and Universität Stuttgart.

“I planned on spending some time abroad as part of my master’s, and when I heard about this program I knew it would be a good fit,” says Mr. Hermann (Sc’17). “I wanted a longer term abroad, exposure to a different academic and cultural environment, and a chance to improve my English. Through this program I got all of that – plus I graduated with two master’s degrees.”

Mr. Hermann recently successfully completed his thesis defense, earning his Queen’s Masters of Science in Chemistry and becoming the first graduate of the dual degree program. At the same time, he earned his Master’s of Chemistry degree through his home university in Germany as part of this two-year partnership program. Mr. Hermann’s thesis revolved around a device to detect cadmium in drinking water in a way that is portable, easy-to-use, and affordable.

Mr. Hermann had to adjust to differences in the Canadian higher education system – at Stuttgart, for example, master’s theses don’t require a defense. Adding to the pressure, representatives from both Queen’s and Stuttgart were present for his defense.

During the visit by Stuttgart, their Dean of Chemistry, Cosima Stubenrauch, held an information session for Queen’s students about the dual master’s degree program.

“About a dozen students attended, and when I asked them to raise their hands if they thought this was something they might want to do every one of them raised their hand,” says Hans-Peter Loock, head of Queen’s Chemistry department. “We are hoping to increase our international footprint, and agreements like these help our students gain a wider variety of experiences in high performing environments.”

Before the visit by Stuttgart representatives, Cally Li (Artsci’17) had already made up her mind. She started in the MSc degree program at Queen’s this fall, and will be heading to Germany in 2018.

“I was looking for a way to stay at Queen’s one more year, but I was also looking for a way to move on and try something new next year,” says Ms. Li. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to build some international connections and try something new. I have heard a lot of good things about Stuttgart’s labs and their standard of work.”

Students from Stuttgart are also emailing Dr. Loock to learn about life in Kingston. Dr. Loock says, ideally, they would like to see multiple students from Stuttgart studying at Queen’s and vice versa each year.

“Successful research groups must be internationally networked – it’s part of doing science,” Dr. Loock says. “Setting up these agreements takes effort and buy-in, but exchanging students with a top German university like Stuttgart allows our graduate students to get the best of both worlds. And, as I discovered when I was an international student in Canada: you stay at a place long enough and sometimes it becomes home.”

Perhaps that will be Mr. Hermann’s experience, as he recently decided to complete his PhD in Chemistry at Queen’s.