Adele Diederich: strict, fair, successful



March 16, 2018

Long, drawn-out meetings are not her thing. Adele Diederich values clear, quick decisions; her manner of communication is equally clear and unambiguous. “I love straight talk,” says the Professor of Psychology who has high expectations of herself and others. And her approach has been exceptionally successful, as evidenced by her fundraising achievements. Adele Diederich’s expertise in cognitive and mathematical psychology is in high demand.

No external funding - no research. In order to obtain funding, researchers have to provide detailed justifications of their research projects and submit applications to institutions such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG [German Research Foundation], the European Research Council and foundations. Private business also provides funding. The procedure is complex and success is in no way guaranteed. Adele Diederich’s success rate with the DFG is, however, almost 100 percent. “The effort that I put into preparing for my lectures is the same effort I put into the applications: I work them out to the very last detail,” she says. “That seems to work well.”

The psychologist is currently working on five research projects at the same time – this makes the researcher also an employer. She has created five workplaces – three post-doctoral and two PhD positions. She has also created various research assistant jobs for students and the test subjects that she requires for her projects must, of course, also be paid. “As researchers, we bring money, jobs and taxes to Bremen. This is a win-win situation for us as Jacobs University and for the region.

Her field is mathematical psychology, a subdiscipline of psychology that formally describes psychological models in mathematical terms. She is interested in two subject areas, namely cognition and the interplay between the sensory organs, and decision-making models, i.e. the process of choosing between at least two options, including under pressure of time. “If I buy something five minutes before the shop closes, my decision-making process will be completely different than if I had a lot of time.” Although Adele Diederich does basic research, her work can be found in many applications, such as driver assistance systems in cars and health insurers’ service catalogs.

She enjoys her teaching work as much as her research work: “A good teacher prepares students for the challenges of the future and imparts knowledge to them so that they can compete on the labor market.” She describes herself as strict but fair. “Students learn a lot from me. It’s not always easy, but they generally find it to be a good thing.”

Adele Diederich has a lot on her plate – really a lot on her plate. She has now accepted yet another appointment: as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology. In her field, women are rare indeed. As a researcher, she did not want to let the opportunity of managing a well-known trade publication pass her by.

Adele Diederich has taught and researched for 16 years at Jacobs University. Before she came to Bremen, she was at the Northwestern University in the United States. “The idea of assisting in building up a university that combines German and American elements excited me,” she says. She particularly values the closeness to the committed, international students, the short decision-making pathways and the interdisciplinary collaboration at Jacobs University. “I am, after all, a psychologist and a mathematician. Working across the disciplines is important to me. Everyone knows each other here and it’s easy to talk to one another.”

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