Without motivation, nothing is possible. To receive the Erwin Stephan Prize, students must achieve excellent grades and complete their studies quickly. We interview two students who accomplished just that – completing their studies quickly and successfully to win this year’s award and prize money. Ardit Dvorani received 2500 euros for his master’s degree while Maximilian Ringleb received 3000 euros – 1500 euros for each of his bachelor’s degrees, a first in the history of the award.
Ardit Dvorani, who is originally from Albania, began studying for a degree in Computational Engineering Sciences at TU Berlin in 2014. A good decision, he believes, as this enabled him to develop expertise in an area he had always been passionate about. “I was always a good student,” he says. “However, my motivation to get ahead didn’t really pick up until I arrived at TU Berlin.”
He completed his bachelor’s degree in Computational Engineering Science in 2017 with excellent grades in just five semesters instead of the standard six, earning him the 1,500-euro Erwin Stephan Prize in 2018. “That was a great honor for me,” he shares. He hadn’t been in Berlin long and had only recently learned German after attending TU Berlin’s Preparatory School for one year to qualify for admission to university.
In 2020, he was awarded the prize a second time. Ardit completed his master’s in Computational Engineering Sciences with an overall grade of 1.1 – earning the Erwin Stephan Prize again. The prize and money are awarded to provide support for research, teaching, or continuing education stays abroad. Ardit plans to use the funds to participate in international conferences and workshops. “The Erwin Stephan Prize serves as both recognition of my work during my studies as well as motivation for my current work,” he says.
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Ardit Dvorani is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at SensorStim Neurotechnology GmbH under the supervision of Professor Jörg Raisch from the Control Systems Group. His research aims at using external stimuli to counteract the freezing of gait in Parkinson’s patients and improve their quality of life. “I am very proud of the fact that I can use the knowledge I gained at TU Berlin for the benefit of people.”
He looks back on his university days fondly – even though they required a great deal of hard work and dedication. In addition to studying, he also had a part-time job and completed professional internships during the semester breaks. Nevertheless, he also found time to forge valuable friendships which continue today. “My fondest memory, though, is learning that things I had developed myself actually worked.” For instance, when a robot executed the exact task Ardit had programmed it to do. “Professionally, I would like to develop and conduct research, both of which I am doing in my current position,” he says. So, what is next? Who knows – maybe another award for an outstanding doctoral thesis?
The second award winner is Maximilian Ringleb, who applied with two bachelor’s degrees. Maximilian studied both Sustainable Management and Economics, completing each degree program in five semesters with a top grade of 1.0. He is the first person to be awarded the Erwin Stephan Prize twice within the same award period.
“Of course the prize is a great honor and a perfect end to my time at TU Berlin,” says Maximilian, who has already completed his first master’s degree in Global Thought at Columbia University in New York City and is currently pursuing a second master’s in Political Thought and Intellectual History at Cambridge University.
Maximilian easily remembers his first orientation day among hundreds of other first-year students in the Audimax at TU Berlin. “At the time it all felt so exciting but also intimidating,” he says. He recalls the awarding of the Erwin Stephan Prize on stage in front of the new students. “I was really impressed by the recipient's speech to so many curious students.” He spoke about how he was headed to China to work for Volkswagen. The speech had a lasting impact on the young Maximilian, who was only at the beginning of his university career, filling him with this “infectious feeling while sitting among hundreds of other new students and watching a representative from the graduating class congratulated by professors before heading off into the world.”
Maximilian immediately applied for the Erwin Stephan Prize after completing his own bachelor’s degrees. A letter with his matriculation number, CV, and copies of his transcript were all it took. His plans for the prize money were clear – he would use it to help finance his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in preparation for a doctorate.
Where did the idea to do two bachelor’s degrees even come from? “It wasn’t intentional,” says Maximilian. He first enrolled in Sustainable Management. Due to other interests, he also took additional modules in economics. The decision to also complete a bachelor’s in Economics was not made until later. In early 2019, shortly before his final exam in Sustainable Management, he was admitted to the master’s program at Columbia University. However, the program was not scheduled to start until the 2019/20 winter semester. Maximilian went over the various options with his degree program advisor. “We realized that I could apply the additional modules I had taken to another degree.” He thought it was a great idea. “Above all I was motivated by the idea of combining all these individual additional modules I had taken into something greater, a second degree.”
So he postponed writing his bachelor’s thesis, took the remaining courses he needed for Economics, and studied in both degree programs during the 2019 academic year. He then completed his degree in Sustainable Management. “I submitted my last term paper for my Economics degree at the end of August. At that point I had already been in New York for a week and my master’s program started the following week,” he explains. “Doing two bachelor’s degrees was quite unintentional. One was my official degree and the other served to ‘balance things out.’”
He is particularly proud to have been awarded the prize. “To now join the ranks of that same role model I encountered the very first day of such formative years at TU Berlin has deep personal meaning to me,” he says. Due to the coronavirus regulations, he was unable to accept the award in person. “But in my heart I know that my professors are also sending me out into the world with proud expectations as the Erwin Stephan Prize winner.”