Category: News

Shivam Dwivedi, Unlocking Sustainable Energy Solutions at RWTH Aachen University

Shivam Dwivedi, was an IGCS grantee from the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department at IIT Madras, Chennai, India. Shivam recently completed their research exchange program at RWTH Aachen University, and Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany, under the mentorship of Prof. Olivier Guillon and Dr. Mariya Ivanova. His research focuses on Proton Conducting Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells, exploring innovative solutions for storing renewable energy.

In their insightful report, Shivam shares their journey navigating challenges and adapting their research to present significant progress towards their M.S. thesis. From the meticulous planning required for visa arrangements to the vibrant cultural experiences in Germany, Shivam’s narrative provides valuable insights for future IGCS scholars. He emphasizes the importance of embracing extracurricular activities and fostering emotional resilience amidst academic rigour, highlighting the holistic growth fostered by IGCS exchange programs.

You can read their full experience report here:

Shiva Kumar Rajendra, IGCS Grantee in RWTH Aachen for Short-term Postdoctoral Research

IGCS Exchange Research Grantee Shiva Kumar Rajendra details their meticulous preparation, challenges with accommodation, and the enriching academic experience from their home institution at University of Mysore, supervised under Prof. Jayashree P. to their host institution at RWTH Aachen University under the guidance of Prof. Martina Fromhold-Eisebith.

Shiva explored the topic of “Spatial Dimensions of Urban Agriculture in India and Germany”, where they did a comparative study between Bengaluru and Aachen to understand agricultural dynamics over two decades (2003–2023). Revealing distinct patterns influenced by urbanization, culture, and climate, they highlighted the importance of preserving green spaces, adopting sustainable techniques, and smart land use planning amid urbanization. Urban agriculture emerges as a practical solution for nutritional challenges, community resilience, and additional income, despite limitations. The comparative study offers valuable insights, fostering international partnerships to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

You can read their full experience report here:

Nico Dabelstein, Managing Fluctuating Renewable Energy and Demand Using Microgrids

Nico Dabelstein was an IGCS research exchange grantee and a part of a research group led by IIT Madras, Chennai’s Prof. Dr. Krishna Vasudevan, where they’re pioneering the development of a cutting-edge microgrid on the campus area.

Nico’s focus on Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) aims to optimize energy distribution within the grid, employing this powerful machine learning technique to enhance effectiveness, environmental sustainability, and economic performance. Through meticulous data collection and Python modeling of microgrid components using libraries like stablebaselines3 and pandas, Nico’s team has crafted a sophisticated reward function considering costs, CO2 emissions, and battery state of charge. By integrating a Pandapower Python model for accurate component modeling and optimal power flow calculations, alongside an artificial neural network (ANN) for swift OPF approximations crucial for DRL agent training, they’re paving the way for a robust control algorithm to manage fluctuating renewable energy and demand within the microgrid.

You can read their full research brief below:

Nandhini Duraimurugan, IGCS Research Grantee’s Guide on Successful Application

Nandhini Duraimurugan is a Ph.D. research scholar from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai who conducted a six month research exchange at RWTH Aachen, Germany. They were affiliated with the Department of Ocean Engineering at IIT Madras under the guidance of Prof. K. Murali and were hosted by the Institute of Textile Technology where they were supervised by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Wirt. Ing. Thomas Gries.

They detailed essential aspects such as navigating visa procedures, securing accommodation, and tapping into university resources. If you’re considering a research voyage to Aachen, Nandhini’s report provides valuable insights to streamline your journey and maximize your experience.

You can read their full experience report below:

Nico Dabelstein, Microgrids and Deep Reinforcement Learning for Sustainability

Nico Dabelstein was an IGCS research exchange participant from Technical University Berlin for the funding period of 2023. They shared their enriching experience at IIT Madras with the IGCS team for future prospective scholars.

They were also a participant during the Winter School 2023 in Chennai, and following this they applied to a conduct a three-month research stint collaborating with the Department of Electrical Engineering under the guidance from Prof. Dr. Krishna Vasudevan. From meticulous visa planning to adjusting insurance and packing essentials, Nico navigated the preparatory phase with precision. Accommodation options, bureaucratic challenges, and cultural immersion added depth to their stay. However, despite hurdles, Nico’s independent work and insightful meetings fuelled their academic and personal growth.

Nico expresses gratitude to IGCS and supervisors for this invaluable opportunity, emphasizing the transformative nature of their time at IIT Madras. You can read their full testimonial here:

Angel Jessieleena, research on fate of microplastics on surface waters in Chennai

Angel Jessieleena A had an enriching 3-month research exchange program at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, as she delves into the source and fate of #microplastics at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai.

Angel’s gained valuable insights in focus and organization, significantly impacting her personal and professional growth through their research exchange in Germany.

You can read their full testimonial is below:

“My name is Angel Jessieleena A, and I’m a PhD student at IIT Madras, Chennai. My area of research is to investigate the source and fate of microplastics present in aquatic systems. In this report, I will share my experience with a 3-month research exchange program at RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

The main purpose of my visit was to utilize an instrument named micro-FTIR, which helps in the analysis of microplastics.

To begin with, let me first give you all a brief background about my area of research and my intent to visit. My doctoral research work is in the field of microplastics, focusing largely on the environmental monitoring of the surface waters of Chennai, India. In order to conduct a qualitative analysis of microplastics, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) is used. However, it becomes impossible to use FTIR for the analysis when the microplastics of interest are less than 500 microns. There comes the need for a sophisticated instrument called micro-FTIR wherein a microscope comes along with the FTIR. This enables the user to focus on the microplastics through the microscope and parallelly conduct FTIR analysis to know the chemical composition of microplastics. However, this instrument is not available in our institute, but in order to analyse smaller microplastics (<500 micron in size) that are reportedly predominant in surface waters, micro-FTIR is essential.

Since Dr. Schwarzbauer’s lab at the Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of Petroleum and Coal, RWTH Aachen University is having the instrument, we (me and my supervisor) have decided that it is better for me to make a research visit to Germany. This is how my plan to visit RWTH Aachen University started. Later on, during our search to widen the exposure and also to gain knowledge about the experimental works that are being carried out in the other institutes of RWTH Aachen University, we came across ‘The Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management (IWW)’, headed by Prof. Schüttrumpf. Wherein I had the opportunity to conduct experiments to understand the settling behavior of microplastics, which was inspired by the research work of Dr. Waldschlager. I’m very much thankful to both Dr. Waldschlager and Max for helping me out throughout this work.

Now coming to my experience, these three months had a great impact on both my personal and professional life.

I’m someone who always does things in a hurried manner, assuming that I would save time by rushing it up. But when I went to Germany, I kind of understood that no one there is actually rushing their work. Instead, they do one task at a time but with complete focus. Whereas many a times I felt that since I’m rushing my work and doing multiple things parallely, my focus will not be 100 % at the work I’m doing. This is because at the back of my mind I would be always thinking that I have some other things to do. This would ultimately help me finish the job but not with a perfection.

Another important habit I learnt is ‘the art of organization’. Since I’m someone who rush up things, I just sometimes keep things randomly with a prime focus of just finishing up the work. This habit would eventually make me spend more time to locate my things/materials. This not only causes loss of time but creates unwanted mental stress. I also realized that Germans are more into maintaining the things and keeping it clean. I see people spending so much time cleaning a single glassware and maintaining it very properly. I think I was lacking in that and now I’m trying my best to maintain my things and keep it clean.

Apart from these, I learnt many more things. I would say that these three months research stay at Aachen have made me a better person both in my personal and professional life.

Working in both the institutes was a highly rewarding experience. For a microplastic researcher, specially coming from developing countries like India, working with micro-FTIR was always a dream since it is pricey. Special thanks to Christina for helping me to learn the instrument’s operational and other details. Though I could not analyse all the samples due to time constraints, I was able to analyse samples that are of high importance. Therefore, for those planning to do a similar kind of research visit, my kind advice is to plan for at least a 6-month visit so that you would not need to rush up your work like I had to do.

So, I would recommend all my colleagues to take up the available opportunities and get immersed in a new experience. I’m sure that experience like this will definitely better their personal and professional life. Last but not least, I’m very thankful to all my colleagues and IGCS team members for their kind support throughout my stay there.


Shiva Kumar Rajendra, Post-doc research on Sustainable Urban Agriculture at RWTH Aachen

IGCS research scholar Dr. Shiva Kumar Rajendra undertook a postdoctoral scholarship at RWTH Aachen University, #Germany where they delved into sustainable urban agriculture methods, comparing practices in Aachen and Bengaluru. They expressed gratitude for the support received from Prof. Martina Fromhold-Eisebith and their supervisor Prof. Jayashree P. from their home institution at University of Mysore, #India.

Living and working within the vibrant academic community at RWTH Aachen University, the individual actively engaged with colleagues, fostering a sense of solidarity through shared lunches and departmental meetings. Reflecting on the exchange, they proposed improvements for short-term researcher housing and expressed anticipation for future collaborations with the IGCS family.

You can read the full report here:

Nina Engels, Understanding flood-induced contamination in the Adyar and Cooum river systems, India

Nina Engels is an IGCS research exchange scholar from Neotectonics and Natural Hazards Group at RWTH Aachen University, who was staying at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai, India between 20. February until 15. March 2023. They were doing research on the topic of “Coastal and estuarine sediment archives for flood-induced pollution in subtropic/tropic areas” under the supervision of IIT Madras’ Prof. Dr. Sannasiraj S A from the Department of Ocean Engineering, and Prof. Dr. Indumathi M. Nambi, from the Department of Civil Engineering.

Nina’s stated the following about their research exchange in India:

“The aim of our study and my research stay in Chennai, India, was to identify suitable sedimentary archives at local river systems to learn about flood-induced transport, distribution, deposition, dilution and enrichment of contaminants. Highly populated regions along the south-eastern Indian coastline are particularly vulnerable to periodic and aperiodic flood events. With ongoing global warming, flood-related impacts will increase in frequency and amplitude. During flood events, anthropogenic pollutants, adherent to sediments, get deposited in the catchment areas and can pose a threat to humans and the environment. As little is known about the flood-induced contamination, the highly polluted and flood-affected river systems of Adyar and Cooum in Chennai have been chosen as study area. We aimed to identify deposition areas and pollution indicators that are suitable to reconstruct the river pollution history.

To approach the research questions, field and laboratory work was carried out in February and March 2023. It was a follow-up campaign of a preceding campaign that has been conducted in 2019. We took sediment and river water samples along the Adyar and Cooum rivers as well as the Buckingham Canal. The sediment samples were collected using a geoslicer, a tool designed for collecting nearly undisturbed vertical sections of sediment deposits. The water samples were processed in the IGCS lab facilities at the IIT Madras. Currently, geochemical analyses are carried out at the Institute of Organic Biogeochemistry in Geosystems at RWTH Aachen and results will be finalized at the beginning of 2024. Challenges we faced during the field- and lab work were related to finding and accessing suitable sampling sites, coping with time-consuming processes in the lab and fieldwork organization. As we worked closely with local staff of the IIT, we were always accompanied in the field by a student who could speak the local language, Tamil. This gave us the opportunity to communicate with local people in Chennai and ask about their experiences with flood events. Although we had to adjust some locations, we were able to collect samples at most of the planned sampling locations to get a better understanding of the flood-induced contamination.

A research stay in India is a unique experience on many different levels. Not only is it interesting research-related, but also getting to know the Indian culture and people more closely, working in international teams on current sustainability challenges and exploring this amazing country are enriching and valuable experiences. One of my highlights was our daily evening stroll around the calm and beautiful IIT campus after having a very tasteful Indian dinner. That gave us the opportunity to discuss what we experienced during the day, finding solutions to problems we encountered and just enjoying the atmosphere on campus.”

Katrin Bernard, Unveiling Urban-Nature Connections in Chennai for Sustainable Development

IGCS is delighted to provide insight into the research endeavours of Katrin Bernard, from the University of Duisburg-Essen and supervised by Dr. Helmut Schneider, who conducted a research exchange at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India. Katrin is focusing on urban sustainability for their master’s thesis, where they undertake a qualitative, exploratory examination of the spiritual and cultural associations urban residents maintain with nature. The research aims to elucidate the role of spirituality and culture in facilitating (re)connection with nature as a catalyst for profound transformations towards urban sustainability.

Central to the investigation are pertinent inquiries delineating relationships between Chennai’s populace and urban nature, the nuanced roles played by spirituality and culture within these connections, and the identification of nature experiences conducive to fostering a profound sense of connectedness. Anticipated outcomes include the derivation of implications for urban planning practices, with a focus on integrating values that fortify sustainable development.

Katrin looks forward to sharing updates as they diligently analyse the collected data acquired during their research stay with IGCS in Chennai.

You can read their research brief below:

Manikandan Subramanian, Research experiences in Kerala and Aachen

Manikandan is a exchange scholar from University of Kerala at RWTH Aachen University, working under Prof. Klaus Reicherter. The IGCS team asked him to share his experiences doing a research exchange in Germany. He says:

“From the outset, the allure of studying abroad was coupled with the unique chance to immerse myself in an academic culture that seamlessly blended innovation, diversity, and rigorous scholarship. The IGCS scholarship funded by DAAD provided financial support and opened doors to a world-class research environment, facilitating my pursuit of knowledge in ways I had only imagined.

I am Manikandan Subramanian, and my research area is #OrganicPollution and #HeavyMetals in the shorelines of the #ArabianSea. I was driven to the team IGCS in the 2022 IGCS winter school 2022. My journey with IGCS started in 2022, and one of the most profound aspects of this scholarship was engaging with a diverse community of scholars. I met Prof. Klaus in IGCS winter school 2023 in Chennai, and during that time, I got this opportunity to work with him on the IGCS research grants in 2023.

The topic of my research collaboration with Prof. Klaus Reicherter is ‘Interstitial water-sediment characteristics from the #tsunami-affected areas of #Kollam and #Alappuzha shoreline, Southwest Coast, India.’ The mentorship I received from distinguished faculties of RWTH Prof. Klaus Reicherter, Prof. Jan Schwarzbauer, Prof. Sven Sindern, Prof. Volker Linnemann, Philipp Schulte, and Prof. Christian Maerz from The University of Bonn was shaping my research trajectory. The guidance and expertise provided not only refined my analytical skills but also encouraged me to push the boundaries of my research. Regular meetings, constructive feedback, and collaborative discussions fuelled my intellectual curiosity and passion for the subject matter. More than that, during my depression time, Prof. Klaus Reicherter made me strong, and his room door was always open for me to discuss anything between earth and sky. My colleagues in the office always create a comfort zone for me. The laboratory facilities provided by the university uplifted my research quality, and the support from the staff was commendable.

During my scholarship period since I arrived at Aachen, the International Office for Research scholar at RWTH regularly guided me, and they conducted melaten campus and city tours. From the tour, I made many international friends who work on different streams of research and are from different countries. Then, we had several gatherings in public places in Aachen.

I am profoundly grateful for the IGCS that made this international research analysis experience possible. These three months of immense intellectual and personal growth, from the 1st of October to the 31st of December 2023, equipping me with skills, knowledge, and a global perspective that will undoubtedly shape my future endeavours in academia and beyond.”