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An interview with DIMA Alumnus, Dr. Sebastian Breß

Lupe

"The DIMA group has a high international visibility thanks to its member’s ambitious spirit and aims to publish papers in Core A* conferences and journals. Additionally, DIMA is a systems group, focusing on prototyping new ways of architecting data processing systems."

Sebastian Breß held a postdoctoral researcher postion at DIMA from November 2015 until October 2020.

How did you first learn about DIMA? What was your initial impression?

Back in 2013, I first heard about DIMA during an early phase in my Ph.D. At that time, I read a paper by Max Heimel, a Ph.D. student at DIMA, and soon after, I met Max at BTW 2013. We had a great discussion and he invited me to visit TU Berlin to give a talk about my Ph.D. project. After this, Max and I started working together, resulting in several publications. This is how I first got in touch with DIMA. My impression of the group was that people were ambitious and had a collective vision to publish at core A* conferences such as VLDB, SIGMOD, and ICDE. What I really liked was that after I gave a talk, I had a lot of discussions with different people from the group. Everybody was friendly, gave constructive feedback, and made me feel comfortable. Since then, I feel so grateful to have many mentors, supporters, and sparring partners within the group. 

How would you characterize your experience while working at DIMA, particularly, with respect to your research and teaching activities? What were some highlights?

One of my highlights is teaching a course about my research topic called in-memory databases on modern hardware. I have a strong passion for passing on the cool research findings from our work directly to the students. I appreciate all the support from the team members to help to build and to improve the course, especially when moving to an online format in the face of the Corona pandemic. 

Regarding research, I highly value that we have the space to build systems. I love to code and design new system architectures. The development of a new paradigm for efficient stream processing during an internal Hackathon, followed by a publication at VLDB and the development of Grizzly, a compiler for streaming queries, was an awesome experience I gladly look back to. 

Given your academic experience, how would you distinguish DIMA from other research groups?

From my point of view, DIMA is the largest research group I have been working with so far and also has a comparably large fraction of postdoctoral researchers. Furthermore, the group has a high international visibility thanks to its member’s ambitious spirit and aims to publish papers in core A* conferences and journals. Additionally, DIMA is a systems group, focusing on prototyping new ways of architecting data processing systems. 

How has DIMA helped you to advance your career?

In my time working with DIMA, I had a steep learning curve. For a long time, my goal was to become a professor. And on that path, I could grow my experience personally and professionally. While doing that, I built a track record of managing projects and leading people, conducting independent research, design systems, teach own courses, and acquire funding.

What advice would you give to future Postdoctoral Researchers?

That’s a great question that is tough to answer. But I will give it a shot ;-) Everybody is on their own path, what works for one person does not necessarily work for another person. 

For me, the mindset determines how one perceives the world. For example, seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. Seizing the good and standing up again when things didn’t work out as planned is key to success. What I observed is that setbacks will keep recurring until you learn to accept your accountability and self-responsibility and you start working on resolving the issues on your end. My all-time favorite recommendation is to keep investing in your self-development, take time to self-reflect, ask for feedback, and listen to understand. 

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