The Monash-Leipzig Exchange: An exciting opportunity for undergraduates interested in chemistry

The School of Chemistry has a long-running exchange program with the Faculty of Chemistry and Mineralogy at Leipzig University. The Monash-Leipzig Exchange program was originally initiated by Professors Glen Deacon and Peter Junk (currently at James Cook University), who have had strong collaborations with academics at this German University for the last 25 years, especially Professor Evamarie Hey-Hawkins, the current coordinator of the program on the Leipzig side. It was due to Professors Deacon’s and Junk’s efforts to raise initial funding from the DVC office at Monash University that allowed the first cohort  of 7 undergraduate and Honours students to be sent to Leipzig.

Every year the School hosts between 4 and 6 German Master’s students who undertake a couple of research projects in chemistry. These visits are generously supported by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademsicher Austauschdienst – German Academic Exchange Service) funding body, Germany’s largest scholarship provider.

Associate Professor Katya Pas discusses an exciting opportunity for undergraduate students interested in chemistry research

Leipzig University
Leipzig University

In recent years, the favour was usually reciprocated in an ad hoc manner when one chemistry undergraduate student would be sent to Leipzig. This year was the first time when the exchange program received a financial boost from the School and allowed 6 chemistry undergraduate students to be sent to Leipzig to conduct a 5-week research project in various research groups. The School saw a tremendous opportunity in giving our chemistry undergraduates a chance of learning about not only how to be a scientist but also a different education system of the second oldest University in Europe. This is definitely one aspect of the Bachelor’s degree in Science that students do not get to experience very often.

The process of selecting six students from nearly 20 applications was rather overwhelming. Every student put a good case forward, articulating quite passionately why they wanted to go to Leipzig. Ultimately, Professor Bart Follink, the Head of School, offered the six scholarships to Noah Chen, Mitchell Devenish, Joshua King, Greta Kaehne, Merrilyn McKee and Chiu Wei Teo. The visit was structured as part of the CHM3990 research project unit. A few weeks ago the students came back from their trip and this is what they had to say about their experience:

Greta Kaehne: “This was the best way to understand what it takes to undertake research in Chemistry. In undergraduate laboratories we have prescribed instructions of how to make a compound within the allocated hours. In Leipzig I learned that it might take a few hours if not days to perform synthetic procedures, and I am not talking about purification of resulting products! The understanding of the steps involved will certainly help me in my career in supply chain and logistics in a pharmaceutical company.”

Merrilyn McKee: “This was my first time away from home in a foreign country for an extended period of time. I became more independent and formed great new friendships. As I was in a research group with some people who did not have English as their first language, I learnt how to effectively communicate science with people from difficult cultures. In the future I would like to have a career which combines science communication and research, and so my experience in Leipzig has greatly helped me in both of these areas. I learnt so much and had a great time.”

Mitchell Devenish: “I’m very glad for the exchange to Leipzig because it has been an eye-opener to what research is really like. Having learnt so much through the work at Leipzig University and living abroad, I look forward to how these new skills and knowledge will help me later on as I consider Honours and continue to learn.”

Joshua King: “Studying at Leipzig University was a terrific and enriching experience. During my stay there I learnt about the unique properties of an ionic liquid first hand and I feel that working on a research project broadened my horizons on current chemistry topics. I also have a more well-rounded understanding of chemistry in practice. I can see myself pursuing a career in chemistry and my five-weeks in Leipzig has consolidated my desire and confidence to follow this path. ”

Noah Chen: “Being enrolled in a Science-Commerce double degree at Monash, I did not really know which path to take after I graduate. Spending a few weeks in a vibrant research environment I realised that the lifestyle was very important to me. I was lucky to be surrounded by so many international people with different backgrounds and insights. I learned about not only the work ethics in a chemistry laboratory but also different cultures. Now I am considering doing an Honours project in Chemistry as I would like to be part of the research environment again! ”

Chiu Wei Teo: “There is so much to be learnt from this experience to Leipzig. From the chemistry itself to just learning how to live more independently, this trip to Leipzig has been a fruitful one. The opportunity to work next to a PhD student in a foreign country does not come too often for Monash undergrads so I would highly recommend students considering this opportunity to apply!”

The six undergraduate students who recently returned from their program in Leipzig.
The six undergraduate students who recently returned from Leipzig

The School will continue to foster the exchange program, as it offers a unique opportunity for chemistry undergraduates to broaden their horizons and be more prepared for either future employment in industry or independent research through the School’s Honours program. If anything, this experiment has highlighted that there is a lot of scope in the Faculty to broaden the program by making it accessible to all undergraduate students through a new chemistry unit whose purpose will be to offer opportunities to conduct a research project overseas. It is hoped that this unit will include a long list of collaborating universities not only in Germany but also the UK, the Netherlands and France.

Would you like to participate in the next Monash-Leipzig exchange opportunity?

If you’d like to participate in next year’s Monash-Leipzig Exchange program, register your interest by emailing A/Prof Katya Pas (, and come along to our information session on September 16 (see below for details).

After attending our information session, you will need to submit your application, containing a CV and statement of purpose, to by September 23. Successful applicants will be notified in October.  

Information Session

Friday September 16 at 1 PM

RD Brown Room, Chemistry Building (17 Rainforest Walk)

The undergraduate students who visited Leipzig University earlier this year will tell you more about what they learnt from their experience, and answer any questions you have about the program. Dr David Turner, the unit coordinator for CHM3990, will also be present to tell you about logistics and assessment. Please come along and learn more about this exciting opportunity.

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