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From Chemistry Olympian to Programme Director

Professor Uwe Rinner is head of the Applied Chemistry study programme - a lifelong dream came true.

Uwe Rinner completed his chemistry studies at the Graz University of Technology. He wrote his dissertation at the University of Florida before post-doctoral studies took him to Brock University in Canada. He then returned to the University of Vienna and led a research group. At the same time, he worked as an external lecturer at IMC Krems and at the University of Linz, where he habilitated. After three years as an associate professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman, Uwe Rinner established the Applied Chemistry degree programme at IMC Krems.

Uwe Rinner im Labor

Uwe Rinner established the Applied Chemistry bachelor degree programme at IMC Krems.

You have a very international career. How does IMC Krems fit into the pattern?

When I came back to Vienna after my stay abroad, the desire to create my own degree programme gradually matured. This wish fitted in well with the strategy of IMC Krems, which aimed to expand the range of natural sciences. In 2017, the time had come and there was a call from the ministry inviting proposals for new degree programmes in the natural sciences branch with the support of new information media. Until then, there had been no chemistry courses at the local universities of applied sciences. The need was also recognised and supported by the chemical industry. I therefore developed a concept that was submitted by IMC Krems. IMC Krems was an excellent fit as a partner right from the start: I already knew it from my teaching activities; it has a life science branch and is particularly keen on innovation. And as a habilitated chemist with several years of experience abroad, I was also an ideal fit for IMC Krems.

“From Chemistry Olympian to study programme leader” – what’s behind it?

I took part in the Chemistry Olympiad as a pupil from the fifth grade onwards, won gold once nationally and silver twice internationally. I will continue to be involved in the Chemistry Olympiad, although on the other side now. 

What fascinates you about chemistry?

I generally find it fascinating to understand how the world works, how you can generate innovative materials, drugs, textiles or dyes by simple means. Chemistry is so broad – and a topic in almost every area of life.

According to the curriculum of Applied Chemistry, “green chemistry” is a focus topic. Can green chemistry really substantially and actively contribute to climate change?

Green chemistry is something I care about deeply. Recycling and renewable raw materials, ecological aspects and environmental issues are elements in all courses and cornerstones of teaching. Green chemistry is not only a way to correct the old, sometimes negative image of chemistry, but an elementary factor for a more environmentally conscious future.

What is unique about the Applied Chemistry programme?

Applied Chemistry is very application-oriented without neglecting the basics. The degree programme offers solutions to everyday problems and is therefore highly future-proof. At the request of industry, we have more statistics than in other chemistry study programmes and rely more on computer-based methods. Our two focal points are organic-pharmaceutical chemistry and analytical chemistry, where also most jobs are found. We have lecturers from a total of more than 20 chemical companies and universities in our programme, which automatically gives our students the bonus of a large network. An internship semester is a compulsory component, with more than 30% of students taking the opportunity to gain experience abroad. The international aspect and the strong link to industry make it possible that our students often already have an employment contract in their pockets in the sixth semester.

What do you appreciate about IMC Krems?

There is a familiar atmosphere here, but also a highly professional and pleasant working climate. I like Krems and its surroundings and I appreciate that chemistry is given such a high priority at IMC Krems with Applied Chemistry.

What do you wish for the future of Applied Chemistry?

I think we are on the right track. Soon we will get new laboratory space and can offer teaching and research at the highest level – with further offers from our side. I hope that our graduates will have a good career ahead of them with the education we offer. We will continue on this path, because it points in the right direction.

Are there any plans as programme director? Where do you want the journey to go?

In the future, we will be more active in research, also to cover the local needs of industry. In the long term, I would like to see an expansion of the offers, perhaps even in the form of a master’s programme. Krems should establish itself as a contact in the chemical sector, in teaching as well as an attractive location for events. Therefore, my focus is on the visibility of IMC Krems.

In addition, there is a “Surface Technology” course, right?

Yes, this is a five-week summer school course for those interested in this field. It’s about surface chemistry and everything that the coatings industry and related directions need. In addition, we have some very well-known companies on board. The course offers an attractive training structure for employees of chemical companies and is co-organised and supported by the Chemical Industry Association.

Can you tell us what you do in your spare time?

Besides chemistry, I am very interested in history and ancient cultures, but also in literature and travelling – when that is possible again without restrictions.


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