Understand the world, craft the future
The working world of Dr. Aline Fluri
Fun and fascination – the words keep tumbling out when Dr. Aline Fluri talks about her career and her responsibilities at Freudenberg. The 32-year-old Swiss citizen joined Freudenberg Technology Innovation in 2018. Since then, she’s dedicated herself to new topics that have one thing in common – including with her personally: a promising future.
Talk to Aline Fluri about her hobbies and you’ll soon grasp how she ticks. She chats away about sewing, riding, jogging, aerial arts. She’d also enjoy climbing. Or even martial arts. “I’d need to live ten lives for my hobbies, there are so many cool things I’d love to do. But there just isn’t the time.” Fluri has a sheer inexhaustible curiosity and thirst for knowledge, a high level of motivation and a determination to tackle new things – character traits that already shaped her school years, her university career and now her first professional years at Freudenberg.
Natural sciences have interested Fluri from as long ago as she can remember. “I’ve always wanted to understand the world. I want to know why something is how it is,” she says. “Physics absolutely fascinated me, because it provides the best all-round explanation of the world.” Her choice of degree subject was easy. At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, a master’s degree followed hot on the heels of a bachelor’s.
Physics absolutely fascinated me, because it provides the best all-round explanation of the world
Dr. Aline Fluri, Assistant to the CTO/Manager Strategic Projects
High-Tech and Lego
And last but not least, a doctorate, or PhD as it’s known in Switzerland. At the Paul Scherrer Institute, a multidisciplinary research facility for natural sciences and engineering, she conducted basic research on solid-state oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). “I did my PhD at the intersection of solid-state physics, solid-state chemistry and materials science,” she says. It gained her recognition as one of the top graduates.
In answer to a request to describe in simple words the content and findings of her several years of research, she says: “Just imagine Lego bricks.” Simply put: Working with other researchers, she was able to disprove the theory that crystal lattice dislocation decisively increases electrolyte conductivity and fuel cell efficiency.
Following her PhD, her thirst for adventure and an inquiring mind lured her to Japan. As a postdoctoral researcher at one of the country’s most prestigious state universities in the city of Fukuoka, she again conducted basic research for a year, this time addressing how crystal lattice dislocation in the cathode of the SOFC affects oxygen fission and uptake. Abitur (high-school diploma) under her belt, she’d previously spent a year overseas – as an au pair in England. Back then, one of the reasons was: “As a scientist, you must be able to speak really good English.”
Many assignments, lots of opportunities
Fluri’s third posting – her first long-term overseas posting – is Germany. Although based in Weinheim, much of her time during the pandemic was spent remote working from Darmstadt where she lives with her husband, who works at a company producing chemicals and pharmaceuticals. “After many years in pure research, I wanted to be closer to real-world applications,” she says, explaining why she chose the challenge of working in an industrial company as opposed to a research institute in 2018.
Since then, Fluri’s personal interests and previous research experience have crossed paths at Freudenberg. “I joined the chemistry and surface technology department as a project manager,” she says. She had already conducted research in the sub-specialty of thin-film technology on completion of her master’s thesis.
At the same time, she became a technology scout for the Freudenberg Technology Platform that deals with cross-Business Group surface technology and adhesion. “As a scout, my duties involve recognizing trends in the market and identifying innovation opportunities. It’s also about establishing pain points for the Business Groups in this area, promoting networking and devising possible solutions.” Even though Corona made collaboration difficult at first, the virtual meetings went surprisingly well thanks to the flexibility and openness of the coworkers. “To my surprise, we felt the online meetings were almost as good as in-person sessions. Not even Corona is keeping us from having exciting discussions. We’re able to make the best of the situation,” Fluri states proudly.
Ten years and counting
After just a few months with the company, as a member of a project team that assesses strategic technologies, she was already looking ahead to the year 2050 and zeroing in on two topics. “To understand how things are connected, you must first carry out very detailed work in new technology fields, then evaluate the findings and make competent statements. I’m not afraid of doing that. Whenever I have a task, I always try to find a solution to a problem to the best of my ability,” she says with confidence. Fundamentally, the approach is similar to her previous research and practical experiments in the lab. She enjoyed drawing conclusions and recommending action on the basis of sound measurements. “It’s like detective work,” she says.
Whenever I have a task, I always try to find a solution to a problem to the best of my ability
Dr. Aline Fluri
Since February, her (part-time) role as Foresight Manager in the Future Technologies department has followed on almost seamlessly from her Project and Scout activities. When it comes to energy and hydrogen topics, she looks ten years and more into the future. The hydrogen economy is in a development process at the moment and considerable progress has been made, which makes it a very exciting field. “It’s great to be involved,” she says bubbling with enthusiasm.
Since July 2021, Fluri has held a new position as “Assistant to the CTO/Manager Strategic Projects”, assisting Board of Management member Dr. Tilman Krauch. “I’m now working on strategic topics related to the energy transition and continue to work on hydrogen-related issues. These topics have fascinated me – and have been close to my heart – since my school days. I’ve never owned a car myself. I’m getting the opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of lean methods, which are very interesting. I also help Dr. Krauch establish and maintain contacts as well as prepare important presentations.” More exciting challenges await her. As usual, she will be tackling them with loads of energy and a healthy dose of fun.
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