Bärbel Tress, PhD
Bärbel is the developer of the company’s long-term vision and loves setting targets and putting them into practice. …
After graduating at Heidelberg University, we looked toward the future and wondered what career would be the most rewarding. We briefly pondered the idea of starting a business, but felt not quite ready for it. Our interest in science was considerable, so we decided to continue down the well-traveled but often difficult academic road. We got PhDs, worked as post-docs, lecturers and researchers. It was a joyful, but rough path with many struggles and obstacles. Once we had arrived at the coveted destination of permanent positions, we realised that so much could be done in the way to make this journey less painful for others.
We became deeply interested in how to improve the performance of our fellow researchers. Over the years, our idea developed into creating a company to help researchers acquire the many skills we had to pick up for ourselves; a system of training to give them the complementary skills they need to succeed in academia. Armed with our personal experience, we knew we had gained something invaluable from our educational journey (missteps included) that was waiting to be shared.
Like many of you, we started out as young researchers, and as a couple, we had the two-fold task of finding positions together. We moved abroad for our PhDs, which was the beginning of a 12 year adventure across Europe. On this long-distance race, we held posts at universities and institutes in the UK, Netherlands, and Denmark. We called more than a dozen places home just to be able to work at what we loved: research and teaching.
Although trained as researchers, we had to learn simultaneously how to apply for funding, execute research, publish, supervise students, present and teach … as you know all too well. There were many expectations to meet, but few tools to guide us. Oftentimes, the most difficult aspects of academic work lay outside it; coping with the fierce competition; poor supervision; inefficient planning; mismanagement of resources; and never having enough time.
Once we became journal editors and conference organisers, we realised that having the know-how of performing our academic responsibilities was as important as having the scientific knowledge.
We saw many people like us who were struggling with the onslaught of challenges. We were sometimes lucky enough to get advice from mentors, but often there was nobody to ask. Through a (often painful!) learning process, we found a way to survive in the system. More and more, we realised that there must be a more straight-forward way to acquire those survival skills. The time we had spent developing our systematic approach showed us how much productivity was being lost through trial and error.
After careful exploration, support and encouragement from our university, we became entrepreneurs in the business of helping researchers. It turned out to be one of the best, most exciting decisions we’ve taken yet. Now, we work exclusively to help researchers improve their academic output, enhance their reputation and build their careers! We took the hard way so you don’t have to!
Our company was formed in 2007 to help academics master the tough challenges we ourselves experienced, including; time management, project planning, meeting PhD and journal requirements, presentation skills, applying for positions, communication with reviewers, students and supervisors.
Although every student learns how to investigate their subject, being a successful researcher requires far more than what’s being taught at universities. No one should have to start from scratch when there are professional techniques to make things easier.
We teach you what institutes don’t: how to navigate the complicated world of academia.
Since we’ve been in business, our starting point has always been understanding the typical problems researchers face: we’ve surveyed, talked to many of you face-to-face, analysed studies – you name it!
Based on these realities, we’ve built a curriculum of courses, workshops, and publications. We break down the big challenges into small, do-able steps that you can master and put into practice immediately.
With us, you always work with your own material: your data, project, paper, dissertation, application or presentation. You will always receive simple and easy to follow guidelines, like a personal roadmap to complete your aim successfully and on time!
We are a growing team of people with academic backgrounds, ranging from sciences to humanities. We strive to have a fun and relaxed learning atmosphere in all that we do. Each of us is passionate in their field, just like you.
Thanks to the efforts of TRESS ACADEMIC’s three-day publishing course, I was able to recently publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal. The course was extremely helpful in planning and drafting my manuscripts, which had great comments from reviewers, such as “the paper is logically written and scientifically sound’ and ‘well-written, logically organised article.’ The course motivated me to overcome the normal hurdles to publishing in a step-by-step manner and not fall victim to procrastination. I attended another TRESS ACADEMIC course called ‘Coping with the challenges of a PhD”; it was beneficial in planning my PhD project from the beginning by giving me the time-management tools to take on my large and small goals in a progressive way! Thank you Tresses!”
Our cooperation with TRESS ACADEMIC started around 2011 when I looked at the company’s website, based in the distant Munich. It was the beginning of a long-standing collaboration between TRESS ACADEMIC and our University’s Graduate School (RUB Research School). Since then, we’ve run about 25 workshops and courses to help young researchers in publishing & reviewing journal papers, getting academic jobs, supervising students and presenting at international conferences. The many positive evaluations from course participants underline the important contribution these courses have made to our programme. From the institutional side, I highly appreciate the opportunity to discuss with TRESS ACADEMIC any topic from the course content relevant for us and our students.”
I am a researcher in biomedical ethics, and a post-doctoral research fellow affiliated with King’s College, London and the University of Basel, Switzerland. I work on ethical, legal, social and economic issues of novel medical/reproductive technologies and I aspire to an academic career based in Europe.
I guess like many of us, I tend to doubt myself a bit too much. Rather than looking at my strengths, I often give excessive importance to my shortcomings. So my work is hardly ever good enough in my own eyes. In 2014, I was part of mentorship program at the University of Basel where I had a chance to attend two programmes offered by Bärbel and Gunther, one on being an efficient researcher and the other on academic publications. The training sessions made me acutely aware that productivity, efficiency and the ability to publish academic manuscripts are skills that can be learned and strengthened.
In 2015, I did another course with Bärbel on ‘academic job applications’, as I wanted to give the academic career path a sincere try. The next logical step was to learn exactly what that means and what it requires of me. The course with TRESS ACADEMIC clarified terms such as tenure track, and the different expectations for academic positions in different faculties and countries. It was another eye-opening experience that gave me immense clarity. I understood that the path ahead would be daunting and possibly have many set-backs along the way, but I learned what steps I had to take.
To me, these three programmes were like an elaborate recipe for a magnificent dish. They gave you points to remember and pitfalls to watch out for. You can go back to the instruction materials whenever you need to, but like any recipe, you’ll need to assess your own preference for salt and spices, and adapt the dish to your palate and availability of local ingredients. What will my finished dish taste and look like— we will find out in the future, but I am confident that I am on the right path, and I know what steps to follow.”
As the Head of Research at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), I’ve had the pleasure to arrange courses with TRESS ACADEMIC three times in the past two years. At NIKU, we do research on various aspects of cultural heritage, and we have a staff of junior and senior scholars from various fields, such as archaeology, conservation studies, architecture and engineering, sociology, human geography, and social anthropology, to name a few. The courses given by Gunther Tress at NIKU have always successfully addressed this diverse and complex group of scholars. This is very impressive, keeping in mind the differences in publishing requirements in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
In addition, Gunther has overwhelmed and captivated many us with his passionate, enthusiastic, and energetic attitude to research, writing, and publishing, which has been inspiringly combined with a myriad of specific suggestions and ‘recipes’ for the whole process of getting from an idea to a published academic article. At NIKU, this has resulted both in a change of attitude towards how to conduct the writing and research itself, and in a higher number of published articles. I would unconditionally recommend the course to anyone who would like to learn about and improve their academic publications!”
I am a PhD student of aquaculture in Norway. When I started my PhD study in autumn 2016, I had no previous experience in writing scientific papers for publication. Then I took an intensive three-day course from TRESS ACADEMIC in 2017 on “how to publish in peer-reviewed journals”, and I learned so much! From how the peer-review system works to how to select a fitting journal, as well as structure your paper and get it published, this course was a comprehensive introduction to scientific writing and publication. In addition, you get specific feedback on the paper you are currently working on! Now, I feel much more prepared for the rest of my PhD degree. I would strongly recommend the course to other scientists and researchers.”
“As a coordinator of a research school, I am always on the look out for excellent trainers for our doctoral students. We have already had Gunther for a publishing course which was highly rated by our doctoral students. Recently, we wanted to try something new and asked Bärbel to run a course called ‘Improving PhD supervision’ for the supervisors at our institute. The course supported postdocs and experienced professors in reflecting on and improving the supervision of their doctoral students. They learned a range of new tools and practiced them in a peer-to-peer atmosphere. We were anxious to see how the course turned out, as supervision is always a sensitive subject. But to our surprise, our professors were really enthusiastic about it! They enjoyed the well-balanced mixture of lectures and practical exercises, the great handouts, and especially Bärbel’s competent moderation, which led to fruitful exchange and lively discussions about personal supervision styles. In the end, all professors were adamant that the course should be made mandatory for all supervisors!
It is always a great pleasure to work with both Bärbel and Gunther, and I can strongly recommend their courses! Both are highly competent trainers, and their many years of international experience in research and training are important, e.g. to meet supervisors at eye-level. The best recommendation of all should be the fact that our next course is already booked!
“I am a PhD student at the University of Kiel, currently working at the Alfred-Wegener-Institute in Germany. Last year I took my first course from TRESS ACADEMIC ‘Coping with the challenges of a PhD’ which allowed me to better understand the expectations of a PhD, including the university requirements and my own defence, and time management of writing a dissertation. It helped me manage my large project into do-able daily tasks.
During my PhD study I was faced with various difficult situations, where I had to give presentations, create posters, give flash-talks and oral speeches. Taking part in the presentation skills course from TRESS ACADEMIC made all the difference. It was packed with guidelines, checklists, and examples to learn from. It improved the quality of my talks a lot and I was able to capture the attention of the audience and carry my message better. The course especially helped to structure the timing and content of my presentations.
It is without doubt that I recommended these courses to students, from novices to the experienced!”
I am the coordinator of a research school offering courses to PhD students within Molecular and Computational Biology at the University of Bergen in Norway.
The process of transforming scientific work into writing (by turning data and results from internal information into published knowledge), is such an inherent part of the scientific process that it is sometimes erroneously presumed that one is somehow magically endowed with the ability to do so by just being a part of the scientific community. However, most scientists will at some point – often when they attempt to transform a pile of data into a manuscript or a thesis — discover that this is not, in fact, the case.
Since 2010, Gunther Tress from TRESS ACADEMIC has helped many of our students unravel the mysteries of scientific writing and publishing. Gunther’s approach is first of all characterised by his professionalism that is not only based on his experience, but just as much on his passion for the subject and for teaching. When Gunther is giving a course, you can be sure everyone on the corridor will be aware that something interesting is going on in the seminar room!
Our students are at different stages of their academic careers. Although one single course can never satisfy the needs of every student, the feedback we get has been consistently positive over the years in terms of the usefulness of the courses. Gunther’s knowledge of the subject, the clarity of his teaching, and his ability to convey his enthusiasm onto the students makes this course essential for our institute.”
My name is Yen-Fu Adam Chen, and I am a current PhD student at the German Centre for Environmental Health in Munich. I took the three-day course „How to publish in peer-reviewed journals“ from TRESS ACADEMIC in March 2018 to improve my paper writing and learn tips about how to publish a research paper. When I attended this course, the lecturer gave me comprehensive knowledge about how to organise and publish a paper and also provided several good references afterwards. Now, I start each day spending 30 minutes reading or writing, which is such a useful tip that I have integrated it into my daily routine, which I learned from the class. Overall, it is a very helpful and sophisticated training and I would like to recommend it to everyone who has interest in this subject.”
I first contacted TRESS ACADEMIC in 2008 after I became the publication manager at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), close to Berlin. Aside from assisting our scientists during writing and publishing, it is my job to check, classify, and rank our publications, and report on their quantity for various purposes.
Despite my minor experience in publishing, I soon felt that external professional help might be necessary both for our authors and myself. This was how I came to TRESS ACADEMIC. Already their first course on “How to publish in peer reviewed journals” had a measurable impact and has redefined standards and habits at the ZALF institute. Their well prepared, up-to-date trainings, performed in a vivid and highly flexible manner, offers students essential facts about the writing process and the article structure. Most importantly, their precise advice shows exactly how to overcome the hurdles of the review process. Since then, this training is offered in-house twice a year and became kind of a “must-have“, especially for scientists in early career stages.
The value gained from booking other courses (e.g. on conducting PhD studies or presenting at conferences) cannot be overstated, especially given their open offer to follow-up with questions after the courses. This is an often used benefit by our students, and we often hear the phrase at our institute, “Did you already ask Tress?”
Over ten years, ZALF has had about 20 Tress training sessions with more than 300 participants and correspondingly, the output of peer-reviewed articles in-well ranked journals has increased impressively by around two-thirds.”