Report on the SFB 956 Students Retreat 2018

The CRC 956 student retreat is an opportunity for doctoral candidates to jointly visit locations of scientific interest. Furthermore, the retreat is a valuable experience at which the students become acquainted with each other. This year we chose to visit Paris, and our trip took place from October 1st till 4th. Our accommodation was a Manor style mansion in Ris-Orangis, a small southern Paris town. The house was fully furnished and equipped with a kitchen, two big living rooms, a dining room and a garden. This gave us the opportunity to prepare meals together and socialize in the evenings.

We departed from the institute on Monday, October 1st at 10 am with 17 students in rental cars. For lunch we had some fruits and small sandwiches that we had prepared together in the institutes kitchen. We arrived at the house in the afternoon. While some of us were exploring the big house the others went to a local supermarket to buy all the groceries we needed. In the evening we had barbecue together and spend the night with interesting personal and scientific discussions and playing fun games.

Tuesday morning, after preparing and eating breakfast together, we headed towards Paris to visit the famous Cité des sciences et de l'industrie museum. With several departments, the museum immersed us, and we explored in small groups to learn about brain, aerospace, geology and many other interesting scientific achievements. We also visited a submarine and a giant steel globe with a mirror surface. In the afternoon we watched a show in the planetarium about the fascinating rosetta mission. As astrophysicists we are always thirsty to learn more about different fields of science and the science museum was a good choice as it satisfied our curiosity.


After the museum visit, we went to the historic heart of Paris and roamed around the river Seine, enjoying the iconic landmarks of the city. Later we had dinner in a cosy local restaurant in the streets near the Notre Dame cathedral.

Wednesday also started with preparing breakfast and lunch picnics, as that day we were going to visit the magnificent palace of Versailles. We drove to the palace together and since we each had our own multimedia guided tours, we dispersed in the 2.300 room palace, decorated with tens of thousands works of art. The weather was very good that day so we had our lunch in the beautiful gardens of Versailles, and took a long walk through the labyrinth gardens towards the Marie Antoinette’s palace. In the afternoon we drove back to the house, where we once again had dinner-on- grill together.

On October 4th, after breakfast we cleaned up the house, packed and left for Cologne. We arrived back in Cologne in the afternoon and returned the cars at 6 pm.

Overall, the student retreat 2018 was a very fruitful experience, especially the team building effects and the scientific aspects. In the evenings when we all sat together at one table, and during the long walks through Paris and the Versaille gardens were when we discussed about many scientific topics such as: the implementation of new machine learning methods in astrophysics, simulations and philosophical views on existence of black holes. Besides, SFB 956 organizational information was  passed to the new-comers in small group discussions.
The students gave a very positive feedback to the students council, especially new doctoral candidates within the CRC 956 were thankful about all the information they got about the structure and opportunities offered by the CRC 956. We were all happy to be given this opportunity to get to know our field of work, our working environment and each other better.