Name, First Name: Behlau, Lothar
City, Country: Munich, Germany
Course of studies, Degree: Process engineering/Dipl. Ing.
Employer, position: Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Head of the Agenda Fraunhofer 2022 Department
He had the matriculation number 1 and belonged in 1982 to the first five students of process engineering at the TUHH. The lecture sometimes took place in the professor's office, there was a no campus, the cafeteria was the canteen of the neighboring tax office and they were known in Harburg as colorful dogs.
Dr. Behlau, how did you become aware of this new TU in the first place?
In 1982, teaching at the TUHH started with the main course of study in process engineering, which meant that a university pre-diploma or adequate grades had to be presented. And since there was no Internet at that time, this announcement was published through very "normal" press channels. I found out about it because a student in my dormitory had cut out a short message from the Hamburger Abendblatt and pinned it on the bulletin board in the kitchen...
How was that, the first group of students to be at the TUHH?
Because of the limiting criteria there is only a very limited number of applicants. Most of them were graduates of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, which sometimes have additional lectures were imposed to prove an equivalent to the intermediate diploma. So we started after a first selection with five students, after a few months we then only four, who then all got the diploma. We didn't feel as a student group, but rather as a somewhat exotic group (from FH graduates) at a TU where 99.7 percent research was carried out.
What was student life like at and outside the TUHH?
Of course, there was no campus in the sense of an area teeming with students. There was the large main building on Eißendorfer Straße and an old laundry, from which the upper rooms were rented for a few doctoral students. Our "Mensa" was the canteen of a tax office a few hundred meters away. So we had to be self-sufficient in terms of a student milieu. There were also no student participations in the organs of the TU. On the other hand, our exotic situation of course also had something good: We received extremely personal support from the teaching professors, who - despite the small number of students - were very motivated and serious in their lectures. The assistants also showed a lot of commitment in the practical courses (which they had to invent only because of us). This special role compensated for the stay in an otherwise empty TU. After some time, we were known as a group like a bunch of colorful dogs...
Can you remember the atmosphere in Harburg?
As I said, there was no student life at the TU in the beginning. Even when regular courses of study started a year later, there was still no student scene, neither at the TU nor in Harburg, because most students commuted from all over and only a few lived in Harburg. And Harburg was not a university town at that time, of course. I was born near Hamburg (Pinneberg) and had studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergedorf and also lived there, and later moved to Harburg. At that time, Harburg had more of a reputation as a working-class town. I felt very comfortable there, but of course there was no student milieu (yet). As a part-time editor for the local supplement of the Hamburger Abendblatt, I had reported on the development of the TU (and later explained in a series of articles what the new courses of study in process engineering, urban planning and mechanical engineering entailed). There were some reservations in Harburg about what the TU would bring to the town. I also interviewed pub owners about whether they would be happy if many students lived here soon... they couldn't imagine that at the time. I hope that has changed in the meantime... But of course there was everything a student needs in Harburg, cheap apartments, pubs, good transport connections to Hamburg, etc.. I was glad to have gotten to know this part of Hamburg as well.
What do you use from your studies for your profession?
The process engineering education was excellent from my point of view today. Despite the small semester, the professors had the goal of setting a high standard for TUHH. Today, I work in research management and always need profound engineering knowledge from that time to evaluate research projects. Fortunately, process engineering provides a broad understanding of natural sciences and engineering. The high intensity of supervision at that time certainly left its mark, because you had to be constantly attentive in threes or fours.
In your opinion, how must technical universities position themselves in the future?
In addition to solid competence building in one discipline, the ability to network with other disciplines should be practiced during studies. As a student, a TU degree gives you an overview of an increasingly smaller part of the overall system, and therefore the ability to connect with other disciplines must be built up (also with the social sciences). This methodological competence is partly as important as the original subject competence.
TUs should make clear their contribution and responsibility to society: To what extent does a TU directly contribute to the most pressing problems of humanity with its teaching and especially its current research? This sense-making should be part of the internal discussion at every TU. A sustainability report would be a first step in this direction.