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BASF
BASF
We are
At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The approximately 110,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Further information at www.basf.com.
We offer
BASF offers a variety of entry and career opportunities at various sites for natural scientists, engineers and digital talents:
Direct entry: With a direct entry you will be assigned challenging tasks from day one.
Trainee programs: Our TOP START, START IN and Inside trainee programs offer ambitious university graduates an exciting career start in various fields.
Internship and thesis
We are looking for
BASF relies on committed people with different experiences and perspectives. In addition to specialist knowledge and practical skills, the company values personal skills: A high degree of team spirit, good communication skills and intercultural skills are just as important as a sense of responsibility, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative spirit.
// Interview 2021
Dr. Nicolle Langer
Head of Packaging & Labelling – Agricultural Solutions Europe

Education
Postdoc with Fraser Stoddart, UCLA (2004-2005)
Ph.D. with Francois Diederich, D-CHAB, ETH Zurich (2000-2004)
Chemistry Studies, Netherlands and ETH Zurich (1995-2000)

Career
BASF (2005-present)
What’s your current job description at BASF?
I am group leader for packaging, labelling and artwork for agrochemical solutions in Europe.
At which BASF site are you currently working?
My office is in Limburgerhof, Germany, but since 03/2020 I have worked mainly remotely in home office.
What is a typical working day at BASF like?
Until 9 am, reading and answering emails. Afterwards, there are numerous alignments on technical and organizational topics.
How did it come, that you are now working at BASF? What made you aware of BASF?
BASF is a known company to most chemists. After my post-doc, I applied with several companies in and around Switzerland. BASF was offering me the most interesting position.
How did the application process at BASF work?
I sent my application by (paper!)mail from the USA to Germany. On recruitment day, I held a scientific presentation and afterwards had several interviews. I received the offer to work for BASF on the same day.
How is BASF different from other companies in the chemical industry?
Due to the size of the company and the numerous different business areas, there are good possibilities to develop oneself in almost any direction. This was the main reason for me to choose for BASF 16 years ago.
What did you study, and do you think it prepared you well for your current role?
I studied and did my PhD in chemistry. My first job at BASF was rather close to my Ph.D. topic, but my current job is hardly related to chemistry. A scientific education is a good basis for personal development, no matter in what direction one finally moves.
What advice would you give to a recent ETH graduate, that is currently looking for a job?
Be open-minded, talk to people and read as much as possible job descriptions. Most likely, you will find out, what first direction you would like to take. Don´t worry too much about further steps.
Since when do you work for BASF and how did your position change during this time?
I have worked at BASF for 16 years, now being in my fourth position. I started, as almost every chemist, as lab team leader in research. Afterwards, I held positions in procurement and technology before taking over my current position. With every job change, I used my past experience and learned a lot of new things.
What are your plans at BASF?
To stay interested and keep learning, no matter in what direction and/or position.
Is it possible to change between the divisions of BASF? Would it be for example possible to switch from R&D to production or marketing?
Absolutely yes: my career is the perfect example!
How important is the work-life balance at BASF? Are you satisfied with the work-life balance at BASF?
Work-life-balance is fundamental to me to stay energized. I am happy with my work-life balance: we have flexible working hours and it is fully accepted that the family (father and mother) needs time to take care of their kids.
What do you like most about the corporate culture at BASF?
The strong network. For almost every question, you will find somebody who can help.
Read more
// Interviews 2019
Dr. Nikolas Huwyler
Laboratory Team Leader

Education
Doctor of Sciences at ETH Zurich, Group of Prof. Carreira (2009-2015)
Research Internship at MIT, Group of Prof. Jamison (2008-2009)
BSc and MSc in Chemistry at ETH Zurich (2004-2009)

Career
Laboratory Team Leader at BASF in Crop Protection Discovery (2017)
Postdoctoral Researcher at MPI for Coal Research, Group of Prof. Fürstner (2016-2017)
What are your responsibilities as laboratory team leader at BASF?
As a research scientist in crop protection my main responsibility is the discovery of new molecules that possess high activities against target pests, while at the same time being safe for humans and impacting the environment as little as possible. In my daily work, this includes managing research projects, collaborating closely with experts from other disciplines – ranging e.g. from biology or agronomy to patents and marketing, leading technicians in the laboratory, communicating and documenting results, monitoring competitors, and, most importantly, coming up with new ideas for our pipe-line. In addition, I am also involved in a couple of interesting activities outside of research, such as helping to organize the 136 th International BASF Summer Course.
What made you choose BASF as an employer? Can you describe how the application process worked for you?
In principle, quite simply because BASF offered me exactly the kind of position I was looking for at the time I was looking for it. Another important factor was, that I actually knew someone in the group I was applying to, and this person was always very positive about the position and BASF in general. For me, this positive picture was then further substantiated during my own interview, and ultimately convinced me to accept the offer – which to this day I have never regretted.
The application process itself was relatively similar to other larger chemistry or pharma companies. After filing an application on the company website, suitable candidates are asked to pass through an online assessment test, as well as a telephone interview. If successful, your dossier is forwarded to the hiring group leader, which selects a couple of candidates for on-site interviews. These interview days are usually comprised of a scientific talk by the candidate, several individual meetings with group leaders and executives, as well as a coffee-corner meeting with your potential future colleagues.
During your PhD and your Postdoc, you focused on total synthesis. How can you apply your expertise in organic and organometallic chemistry in your daily work at BASF?
I would say that I profit quite a lot from my background in total synthesis since, at least from a chemistry perspective, my current position is mostly about how to efficiently make a wide variety of relatively complex molecules in a short time. In this regard, it is a real advantage to have experience in devising synthetic strategies and being familiar with many different types of reactions.
You gained a lot of experience in academia during your studies and research. How did you perceive the recent transition into industry? Does the approach to chemistry differ from university?
At least in my experience, and as far as discovery groups are concerned, the chemistry itself and the way how chemistry problems are solved is not so much different from academia. The most significant changes are probably that you have to trouble-shoot reactions without ever having seen them yourself - by working with the information the technicians are giving you and by asking the right questions - and that one develops a certain preference for the more robust and scalable methods in organic chemistry.
How important is harmony between work and outside life for you? Does BASF offer a good work-life balance for its employees?
I would regard myself as a relatively active and committed person, inside and outside of work, and so I do not mind going an extra mile, or two, if my job requires it. On the other hand, I also have a lot of interests outside of work, such as for example rock climbing or cooking, which I would not want to give up either. In this respect, I personally was always very happy with how things worked out at BASF. Of course, it sometimes can get very busy at work but then again there are also times when everything is much more relaxed. Another quite positive aspect for me is that at BASF, PhD-degree holders are generally employed under an individual employment contract and therefore fully autonomous regarding time management. In fact, there is per se also no obligation for attendance in your office, if your responsibilities at a given day do not require it. This means, in most positions and with a bit of self- organization, the system offers a lot of flexibility, such as for example doing home office on certain days or distributing your working hours a bit more according to personal needs.
What are possible career paths and promotion prospects at BASF?
Chemists traditionally start their careers as lab team leaders in one of the research departments and stay in their first position for approximately three to five years. The reasoning behind this is, that in these positions at least a part of your responsibilities corresponds to something you already have experience in from your PhD, allowing you to focus more on all the things which are new. Afterwards, there are two distinct career paths one can pursue: In the expert-track, people stay in research with the goal of further deepening their knowledge and keeping a high level of expertise in their groups, while In the generalist-track the aim is on further broadening your set of skills and move on to other jobs, many of which are not available as entry-level positions because they require a good share of additional professional experience.
Which suggestions do you have for a recent ETH graduate applying for jobs or internships?
I would always recommend to first invest some time in finding out a bit more about yourself, what you would like to do next, and, as consequence, which options there actually are. ETH and affiliated organizations offer a lot of events to inform yourself, such as for example Chemtogether, and it is definitively worthwhile to make use of some of these opportunities. The best sources of information, however, are usually people in your personal network that already are in one of the positions or companies that interest you. Once you know in which direction you would like to go, it is time to find the right job openings. Here again, besides searching yourself, I would let people in your network know that you are currently looking for a job. A very useful manual of how to approach the entire application process in a bit more thorough and structured way is the «Application Guide» from the ETH Career Center, which is available online.
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Dr. Oliver Sala
Research Scientist | Quantum Chemistry

Education
Doctor of Sciences at ETH Zurich, Group of Prof. Dr. A Togni and PD Dr. HP Lüthi (2012-2015)
BSc and MSc in Chemistry at ETH Zurich (2009-2012)
BSc in Chemistry at University of Applied Sciences Zurich (ZHAW) (2006-2009)
Apprenticeship - Chemical Laboratory Assistant, Givaudan AG (1994-1997)

Career
Research Scientist | Quantum Chemistry, BASF SE (2016)
Research Associate, ETH Zurich (2015-2016)
Research Assistant, ETH Zurich (2012-2015)
Summer Intern, Givaudan AG (2006-2011)
Senior Laboratory Assistant, Givaudan AG (2004-2006)
Chef Laboratory Assistant (Cheflaborant), Givaudan AG (2003-2004)
Chemical Laboratory Assistant, Givaudan AG (1997-2003)
What is your daily work like as a research scientist in quantum chemistry at BASF and what are your responsibilities?
I am responsible for several projects, supporting the experimentalists with mechanistic or kinetic insight from quantum chemistry. Most importantly, though, the main goal is to help them save time by guiding their chemistry and predicting properties of potential product compounds or catalyst systems. In that way, experimental screening can be reduced to a minimum. In addition, I am leading a project, which comes along with a lot organizational tasks.
What made you choose BASF as an employer? Can you describe how the application process worked for you?
Since over twenty years BASF is committed to quantum chemical computations. This is unique in the chemical industry. Of course, the quantum chemistry group started with just a few people, but today about two hands full of quantum chemists are working at BASF. After sending my application dossier to BASF, everything went very fast. Two weeks later I was invited to Ludwigshafen for one day with accommodation at their own Hotel the night before. The application process was professionally organized. The individual interviews covered both, scientific discussions and social behaviour, hard and soft skills. I felt comfortable throughout the whole day, everyone being very friendly and genuinely interested in my person and my opinion.
During your PhD you worked on theoretical / computational chemistry. Can you apply your expertise in your current work? How did your studies prepare you for the challenges in the industry?
Right from the beginning my expertise could be applied to various projects and this still continues. Having been supervised by two professors – a theoretician and a chemist – during my PhD helped me a lot in being prepared for industry. In addition, the time at Givaudan very much contributed to my industrial background.
You gained experience in the field of quantum chemistry in academia as well as in the industry. Does the approach in this field differ from academia to industry?
Yes. In industry, time is a key factor. Nobody can or wants to wait several weeks or even months for results. Therefore, the computational protocols must be accelerated, and the strategy of investigation must be pragmatic. It depends, however, as a patent attorney would say. My work can be divided into three areas: fundamental research, divisional research and method development. Speed is crucial when working for the divisions. Mostly, strict time management is inevitable to meet their milestone requirements.
Is it customary at BASF to remain in the same field of activity or are there opportunities to move to another area if desired?
Both pathways are possible. Depending on personal preferences, one chooses one or the other path of career. The size of BASF opens up a plethora of fields to dive into and give your career another direction.
How important is harmony between work and outside life for you? Does BASF offer a good work-life balance for its employees?
Very important. Work-life balance ensures a clear mind, and this is required if I want to be creative and innovative during my daily work. BASF provides many possibilities for recreation and sports activities. For example, BASF has its own fitness centre including sauna.
Which suggestions do you have for a recent ETH graduate applying for jobs or internships?
I strongly recommend building a network during your undergrad and PhD studies. Go abroad for one semester, setup research collaborations, or do an internship in industry. Consider that it is you who chooses the company you want to work for.
Read more
// Interview 2018
Dr. Michael Seet
Research Scientist

Education
PhD at ETH Zurich, Group of Prof. Diederich (2009-2013)
Studies in Chemistry at Phillips-Universität Marburg (2003-2008)

Career
Research Scientist at BASF (2016)
Research Scientist at Beiersdorf AG (2013-2016)
Internship at BASF (2008-2009)
What are your responsibilities as project manager at BASF?
In my role as project manager at BASF crop protection R&D, I am coordinating a project team consisting of four lab heads (medicinal chemistry, computational chemistry, biochemistry) and five lab technicians. Aim of the project is finding a new lead candidate and promote it from early hit discovery to lead optimization phase. Tasks comprise the coordination of lab syntheses, molecular modeling approaches, biochemical assay setup, interpretation and presentation of results, defining milestones and targets of the project.
You graduated from ETH Zürich with a PhD in Chemistry. Does BASF also employ graduates of other fields of study?
Yes. BASF is a multidisciplinary and highly diverse company, employing professionals with a broad spectrum of backgrounds (all kind of natural sciences, engineers, social sciences, etc.).
How does a typical work day in industry differ from one at university?
In my opinion, there are two major differences in working in industry as compared to academia. Firstly, industrial research relies strongly on collaborations with various research, business, and service units. Many stakeholders are involved, whose different competencies and views add value to your project. In contrast, in academic research you can run your project more in your own way. Secondly, in industrial research you take over more responsibility, for instance in terms of keeping budget and timelines in your project, or in employee development.
What made you choose BASF as an employer? Can you describe how the application process worked for you?
I applied for BASF to an open position. However, knowing people from the unit due to my previous internship facilitated the invitation for an interview significantly. Generally speaking, I very much enjoy the working atmosphere at BASF and the high degree of freedom I am given in my research.
Does BASF offer internships for university students?
BASF offers a wide range of internships for undergraduate students. You can join BASF for just a few months, or you can apply to do your bachelor, master, or PhD thesis with BASF.
Before starting your PhD, you joined BASF for a three-month internship. Which experiences did this add to your professional career?
To me, there are two major learnings from my three-month internship at BASF. In terms of improving my hard skills, I learned how to plan my daily lab work very efficiently. This practical experience was a very useful complement to my theoretical background I learned at university. On top of that, I had the chance to build up a network with other interns and lab heads, which was of enormous value for my later career.
Before joining BASF, you also worked for Beiersdorf AG as a project manager. What was your motivation for changing your job?
In my first job after my PhD at Beiersdorf I worked in a Scouting unit, which was partly scientific research, partly supplier management. After three years I decided to look for new challenges in a pure research unit. At that time, there was no suitable opportunity at Beiersdorf, so I looked outside the company, and eventually found my current position at BASF.
Could you describe some of the career opportunities that exist within your company?
As a scientist, you usually start your career at BASF in a research unit. After some time in R&D, many people either decide to go on a so-called Expert Track, on which they broaden and deepen their expertise in a specific research field and advance to Senior Scientist or Principal Scientist grades. Or they go on a so-called General Management Track, on which they leave R&D and broaden their experience in other units within BASF, to eventually strive for a later leadership role. In both scenarios, BAFS offers many tools to support and develop their employees.
Which soft skills should students try to acquire in the course of their studies to succeed in a modern chemical company like BASF?
Besides your core competencies, it is always a good idea to be experienced in closely related disciplines. For instance, as a synthetic chemist, it helps to be skilled in computational chemistry, biology, or IT. However, a general advice is to never underestimate the importance of your soft skills. Be curious and open to try new things, look for collaborations, be creative and establish new contacts. This will help you in any case.
Which suggestions do you have for a recent ETH graduate applying for jobs or internships?
I strongly recommend building a network during your undergrad and PhD studies. Go abroad for one semester, setup research collaborations, or do an internship in industry. Consider that it is you who chooses the company you want to work for.
Read more