Interview with Prof. Bettina Frohnapfel

Institute of Fluid Mechanics, Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT), Germany

P​rof Bettina Frohnapfel

What is your academic background?

I studied Chemical Engineering in Erlangen, Germany with a specialization in fluid mechanic and thermodynamics. For my Master Thesis I joined an International Master’s Programme in Turbulence which was offered at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden back then. A similar program nowadays exists in Lille, France. I returned to Erlangen for my PhD thesis in Fluid Mechanics in which I worked on drag reduction in turbulent flows. My post doc time took me to The University of Tokyo, Japan as a Fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) before joining the Center of Smart Interfaces (CSI) at TU Darmstadt, Germany. I was head of an Emmy Noether research group in Darmstadt when I received the offer for a full professorship in fluid mechanics at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In 2012 I joined KIT and have been the head of the Institute of Fluid Mechanics (ISTM) since then.

What is your research specialism?

At ISTM we cover a rather wide range of topics in fluid mechanics – in theory, numerics and experiments. Our main focus is on the interaction of fluid flow with walls. This includes fundamental issues of turbulent flows over rough and structured walls, but also e.g. tribological flows under laminar flow conditions.

What projects are you working on currently?

In terms of coordinated research programmes, I am currently the deputy spokesperson of a collaborative research centre on Turbulent, chemically reactive, multi-phase flows near walls and a member of the steering committee of a priority programme on Turbulent superstructures.

Was there a woman who inspired you to get into your field?

No, as a student I did not know any female professors in our field. However, I am convinced that role models really help to motivate women for a career in science or the engineering industry. In addition, having a good network is really important. Therefore, we organize women networking events with role models from academia and industry at KIT for female students, PhD students and post docs.


What advice would you give to young women wanting to get into STEM?

Build up your own network and actively use it. Do not hesitate to get in contact with potential mentors, especially the women in the field, and discuss your career options with them. For example, I am presently a Henriette Herz Scout of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, a programme that aims at increasing diversity in research. This programme offers very attractive post-doc options. Let me know if you are interested!

ERCOFTAC offers great networking options for everybody. Use those by becoming an active member of special interest groups, conferences, workshops and courses!