Heidelberg exchange program promotes research training

Author: Gene Stowe



Through Notre Dame International, the University of Notre Dame and Heidelberg University have established a collaboration in which three students from Germany have taken classes and conducted research at Notre Dame since August, part of an ongoing, broad collaboration with Heidelberg University that was established in 2104. Nicolai Kaltwasser, Alex Dimmling, and Lennart Schelper were selected to be the 2015-2016 students from Heidelberg University, and are all returning to Germany to continue their studies.

Dimmling is working in the laboratory of Paul Helquist, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame, who has published discoveries about the use of Trichostatin to treat the rare and fatal genetic disease Niemann-Pick Type C. Dimmling is seeking analogs to Trichostatin that could be even more effective. Schleper is working in the laboratory of Prashant Kamat, the Rev. John A. Zahm Professor of Science, seeking improvements in solar cell technology, so the cells can absorb more light and function more effectively.


Nicolai Kaltwasser was advised by Brandon Ashfeld. Alex Dimmling and Lennart Schleper, who both finished their bachelor’s degrees at Heidelberg last June, are returning to Germany to pursue master’s degrees with credit from the Notre Dame experience. 

The students said the Notre Dame experience is significantly different from their undergraduate years at Heidelberg, where humanities and sciences hold classes in different parts of the city and do not have a unified campus. “I really like the system of American universities–it’s like a big community and everybody’s so proud they can be here,” Dimmling said. “It’s totally different from Germany. Everybody says we’re part of the Notre Dame family, we have our football team, everybody’s a Notre Dame fan... I feel like all the people are so nice and they have a strong feeling of being together and being one family,” Schleper said. “I feel accepted to this family.”

The student exchange is part of an initiative that includes joint research, academic exchanges, and other cooperation, an example of Notre Dame’s larger international focus. Last year, a six-day Joint Summer School in Computational Chemistry was held at Heidelberg University in July, organized by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame and the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing at Heidelberg University. The Global Collaborative Initiative International Research Funding program administered through Notre Dame International paid for the program. Another summer school will be at Notre Dame this summer.