Sophie Peter '16 (Germany)

February 16, 2017

"My master’s thesis was the key to my
current job."

I studied a B.A. in Political Sciences and Sociology at University Mannheim in Germany, and spent one semester in Umea, Sweden and attended the course “Environmental Governance” which ignited my passion for the environmental field of research. After that I completed my internship at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) with field research in the Philippines and at the Independent Institute for Environmental Concerns in Berlin. I decided to apply for a Master’s program to improve my skills in the fields of sustainability, environmental studies for translating this knowledge into specific policy and management strategies. I wanted to find a course that was inter- and multidisciplinary and international. I found all these aspects in the MESPOM program, which I discovered through the website of the Manchester University and applied on my birthday and then got accepted.

MESPOM had several main impacts on me. First of all, Europe got much smaller. I travelled a lot between Germany and Hungary and I experienced a new perspective about East Europe. Budapest is a city full of new ideas and spirit. I attended the Degrowth conference, which had a major impact on my research interests. Second, the course “Introduction to Environment, Policy and Society” was interesting and there was a student conference at the end. I researched and presented about the energy transition and its cooperatives in Germany. Energy extracted as one favorite topic. That is the reason why Michael LaBelle was my favorite teacher with the course “Energy Policy, Environment and Management”. Third, the stay on Lesvos was another exciting experience. It was very interesting to learn about the closed ecosystem of the island and the human interaction and interplay. To visit an olive press (also a cooperative) and an Ouzo factory was useful to have a practical experience about how things work in reality. Going from the desk into the field is one huge potential of the program. Another project was about sustainable tourism, which was a vibrant topic in times of refugees coming from Turkey and the Greek financial crisis. I have learned that a holistic picture is needed to understand the complexity of causes and effects.

I chose Lund University because of two aspects. First, a personal one -I love Sweden and I wanted to come back to this wonderful country. I enjoyed the academic world so much, its openness and transparency during my bachelor’s degree. The IIIEE gave me the chance to improve my environmental management skills. Topics like integrated product policy or preventive environmental approaches were highlights, as well as to produce the publication “LED´s Light the Future – Showcasing Models of Innovative Lighting Solutions” in the course “Strategic Environmental Development”. I learned how to conduct interviews and how to use all this information as a way to answer our research questions. I decided to write my master´s thesis with the IIIEE, Philip Peck, and the Wuppertal Institute in Germany with the title: “Understanding and assessing the societal impact of sustainability research: From state of the art to a process-oriented assessment plan.”

My master’s thesis was the key to my current job. Lund University provides a platform to download the master’s thesis for free, so I have sent the link to all my interview partners or contacts in the sustainability research field.

Prof. Dr. Opielka contacted me to discuss my thesis and to learn more about me and how I can work for him in the Institute for Social Ecology in Germany. Now I am working as a junior researcher in this institute, more detailed in the project “Future scenarios of the assistance to the elderly in Schleswig-Holstein 2030/45”. It is in cooperation with the social welfare organization of the protestant church in Schleswig-Holstein. The goal is the creation of future pathways and how to deal with grand challenges, like the demographical change, social and value change, technological development, etc. in rural areas. The project includes also a connection to the Sustainable Development Goals with the guiding principle “think global, act local”. Further projects in the field of social sustainability are in process.