Kurth-Voigt and Bremen: My Opportunity to Explore my Passion

by Liz Bodenman ’20

In the first semester of my time at Uni Bremen, I had the privilege of utilizing funds granted to me through the Dickinson German department’s Kurth-Voigt Research Prize. Securing the grant required me to formulate a viable research question and plan with which to explore possible answers. My question, though still unanswered, pertains to the vegan and vegetarian movements in Bremen and Germany as a whole. How are these two movements so successful in a country that hails meat and dairy in nearly all its traditional cuisines? Though I was not going to get a satisfying answer during the few months I lived in Bremen, I was able to expand my mind through attending two exciting events, funded by Kurth-Voigt.

My start-up workshop. Photo creds to Momentum Novum (the runner of the conference)

First I was able to participate in a three day sustainability conference in Heidelberg, where I attended several different workshops pertaining to food consciousness and the environment, where themes on vegan/vegetarianism echoed throughout. During the conference every participant took part in one block workshop where they worked in groups to formulate a project. My block workshop pertained to the world of ‘start-ups,’ taking us through all the steps necessary to have a successful start-up, then having us present a start-up of our own creation at the closing ceremony. The conference was very international, but getting the German perspective on sustainability proved invaluable for the ways in which I would view German vegan and vegetarian organizations/companies. Then to get an idea of which companies and organizations existed in Germany, I did a bit of digging and found another event useful in exploring my question.

On the way to the Veggienale Fair in Frankfurt

This next event was a day-long ‘Vegginale: Ecological Fair’ in Frankfurt. These Vegginale Fairs are held throughout the year in the major cities across Germany, featuring different national and international organizations and companies relating to sustainability. There is a specific emphasis on veganism and animal rights at these conferences, as vegan/vegetarian activists typically go hand-in-hand with purely environmental activists. Stands were occupied by everything from clean energy firms to a couple selling their homemade vegan honey. The diversity of the content at Veggienale was a good representation of how many ways Germans choose to express care for sustainability and equal rights for all beings.

If I had decided to continue my research project and use the remainder of my grant funds, I could have gone on a few more trips in which to learn about and observe the vegan/vegetarian movements in Germany. My curiosity on the topic remains open, and I plan on exploring it to some extent during my final two years at Dickinson. The Kurth-Voigt is a wonderful opportunity for Dickinson students of German who are curious about an aspect of German life, society or culture and wish to explore it further.


Independent Research Project on NATO

by Lee Mottola ’18


It was an idea born in the streets of Vienna. Originally I wasn’t convinced I could or even wanted to do it, but after deep discussion with my Program Director and Professor Dr. Janine Ludwig, my idea for the Kurth-Voigt Research Project was born. Only days after writing my proposal to research the coming federal elections in Germany, and what that would mean for Germany’s future in the NATO alliance, specifically what their plans were regarding the now infamous 2% military spending goal for members, I had heard that I was awarded the scholarship.

Research began immediately upon my return to Bremen from our class trip to Vienna, with the guidance of both Professor Ludwig and Professor Ulrich Franke of the University of Bremen and INIIS (“Institut für Interkulturelle und Internationale Studien”) I discovered various sources, from German talk shows to parliamentary speeches, which deepened my knowledge on the subject and its complexities. But any student could have found these very same sources and used them to write a paper whether they were in the US or in Bremen beside me, that is why I was determined to differentiate the content of my research by getting first hand accounts and information directly from those shaping these important decisions. To that end I reached out to German politicians of all parties and coalitions, as well as members of the German NATO community. Not all of my efforts were successful and many of those I tried to contact were too busy to schedule an interview at the time. However in the end I was able to conduct four interviews with members of the German parliament, Johannes Kahrs (SPD), Dr. André Berghegger (CDU), Florian Hahn (CSU) and Dr. Tobias Lindner (Grüne) in their offices in Berlin and Hamburg to discuss their expectations for the coming election and how it would influence Germany’s future role in NATO.

After months of collecting all this data, in July it finally became time to sit down and write this paper. What I originally anticipated as being a 20-25-page research paper quickly grew beyond my expectation simply because of the detail and complexity of the subject. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and Club Mate (an amazing energy drink made of yerba mate tea) were poured into my work. There were many days when I wanted to chuck my laptop out of the five-story high window of the Dickinson room on the Uni Bremen campus dashing all my work asunder, but in the end I persevered and delivered the final 34-page copy of my “Magnum Opus” mere days before leaving Bremen. Of all the things I did while abroad, of all the opportunities I took, this research project, though incredibly demanding, frustrating and at times down right tortuous, is my proudest moment from the year abroad. And it never would have happened if not for a stroll through the streets of Vienna. 

A Funded Fairytale

by Rachel Schilling ’16

During my time abroad in Bremen German, I worked with Professor Janine Ludwig to apply for and complete a SIRF grant given to me by CGSE at Dickinson. This 750$ grant funded a short term research trip around the German states of Hessen and Niedersachsen to visit all of the major fairy tale museums and speak with some of the leading scholars in Grimm Brother’s research in Germany.

The Grimm Brothers – statue in Hanau

Old town of Marburg

I was able to visit the cities where the brothers were born, grew up, studied and worked and read about the major themes in fairy tale research and Grimm research. This passion project began my sophomore year at Dickinson, when I was able to take an introduction to fairy tales course in the English department. From this course I not only learned a strong background in fairy tale studies but also realized that I needed guidance in the field if I were ever to manage a thesis or project on the Grimm Brothers. I set out to Hessen to feel the pulse of research and emerging ideas.


Throughout my trip I visited Hanau, Steinau, Kassal, Marburg and Bad Oeyenhausen. I was able to discern a revival in the research about the relationship between fairy tales and the romantic idea of the “Volk.”

Back at Dickinson in my Fall semester, I began work with Professor McGaughey on a year long research project, which would eventually accumulate to my bachelor’s thesis in German. I applied the directions and focus gained through my SIRF grant to more intense analysis of the texts and contexts around the Grimm Brothers.


As my final semester of Dickinson draws to a close I am working on the final parts of my German thesis which attempts to connect the concept of “the Volk” to the portrayal of farmers and peasants in the fairy tales and the literary style of the Grimm Brothers.


Flowers in Kassel

Sampling a World Heritage with the SIRF grant

by Geo Nikolov, Class of 2014

I am a major of Earth Sciences with a Major Concentration on Geoscience and have just completed a full year of study at the University of Bremen. This summer, I was able to participate in a research project funded by Dickinson’s SIRF grant. Here, I will give a brief description of this project:


Marine Geochemical research is conducted by several prestigious institutes in Bremen and Bremerhaven, including The Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, MARUM (Center for Marine Environmental Sciences), and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar- and Ocean Research.  The research group “The Ocean in the Earth System” at the MARUM institute at the  University of Bremen has been officially recognized as a “Cluster of Excellence” by the German Research Foundation and German Council of Science and Humanities.

This semester, I sought out a collaborative research opportunity with a marine geochemist to gain experience in sampling methods, data collection and data analysis within the framework of an environmentally relevant project that would provide the basis for a senior thesis in my major of Geoscience.

Professor Michael Schlüter, geochemist at the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar- and Ocean Research, Bremerhaven, and teacher of the course “Geochemical cycles and processes,” offered me the chance to assist in a research project quantifying flow rates of Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD) and sampling pore water in the Sahlenburg intertidal mudflats near Cuxhaven, Germany. The sampling, data collection and transport modelling conducted in association with this project provided the basis for further analytical work to be completed for my senior thesis in 2013/2014. In addition, Marine Geochemistry is a field in which I am strongly considering pursuing a graduate degree.

Specific Tasks and Responsibilities

My responsibilities at the research site covered pore water sampling, data analysis, and transport modelling. Pore water sampling was conducted with rhizones and suction cups at the field site Sahlenburger Watt in the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park, Germany. In the field, I also assisted with the determination of pressure surfaces and in-situ measurements of submarine groundwater discharge. Laboratory work centered on chemical analysis, specifically, the determination of nutrient pore water profiles. Chloride concentration data was used to model flow rates of submarine groundwater.

Connection to Dickinson Classes and Experiences

The Dickinson course “Chemistry of Earth Systems” introduced me to the foundations of marine sediment pore water chemistry, including an overview of transport processes and depth profiles of nutrients. At the University of Bremen, I have deepened my knowledge in the areas of pore water composition and early diagenesis through the geochemistry course “Element Cycles and Processes,” which included an overview of redox reactions, reaction kinetics and the use of tracers.

Environmental Relevance

The working area, the Sahlenburg intertidal mudflats, lies in the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. This nature reserve, covering an area of approximately 1.300 sq. mi, is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species. It is also a resting place for 10-12 million birds arriving every winter from Northern countries to prepare for breeding. Thus, the ecosystem’s productivity is essential to global biodiversity. The ecosystem is highly sensitive to fluxes of nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate, which are heavily supplied by fertilizer runoff. The OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic identified the German Bight and Wadden Sea as “Eutrophication Problem Areas” in 1994.

Submarine Groundwater Discharge can contribute a major fraction of nutrients to the water column; in some areas, as much as 70 percent of the total nitrate. This project, conducted over several weeks, with similar measurements to be repeated in the future, constitutes basic research that will better monitor nutrient fluxes stemming from an essential individual component of this fragile ecosystem’s water budget.

International Relevance

Submarine Groundwater Discharge is a topic in Marine Geochemistry that is of global geochemical relevance. SGD has only been quantified for small portions of the world’s coastlines, most investigations having taken place on the East coast of the United States, in the Mediterranean, in the Baltic Sea, in the North Sea, and on the coasts of Japan. Estimates of SGD as a component of the global water cycle are thus still somewhat unreliable.

This research experience represented the opportunity to learn directly from an expert, with whom I could communicate in German. International scientific cooperation will be necessary to more fully understand the global impact of this essential component of the hydrological cycle.