26. June 2020

The language enthusiast

Saša Petrović is a technology manager at the Photovoltaics Centre in Adlershof

Saša Petrović © WISTA Management GmbH
In her free time Saša Petrović enjoys playing beach volleyball, here behind the Forum Adlershof. © WISTA Management GmbH

What was is that brought her to Adlershof in the end? It all came down to two things that Saša Petrović had loved since her days at school. Her enthusiasm for languages, especially German. And a knack for the natural sciences. Her first inclination determined her major at university: molecular biology at the university in Zagreb, her hometown, which was still part of former Jugoslavia when Petrović was born 31 years ago. Going to Germany for her doctorate after receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Croatia was a result of her second inclination.

‘I love languages. I find everything about them interesting, including differences in dialects,’ says Petrović. She first encountered the German language at her high school in Zagreb. It came easy to her: ‘I also learned some French but never used it.’ In addition to English, learning German as a foreign language is a fixture in the Croatian education system, probably for historical or geographical reasons, Petrović assumes.

Considering this background, the decision to undertake two internships in 2012 at the University of Constance and then at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, a research centre, was not very hard: ‘I had a good feeling about it all. I already knew the language and research is very strong in Germany.’ After going twice, she came back for more. When she received her master’s in Croatia in 2013, Petrović moved to Berlin for good, where she wrote and defended her PhD at the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Biology. It was around the same time that she started playing volleyball at SV Buch, a local sports club, that she is still a member of. At least before the pandemic, she practiced there twice a week.

Asked about her doctorate, she lists keywords like molecular structures, molecular machines, enzymes, and proteins. Fundamental research – something that Petrović did not want to do forever: ‘Back then, I drifted towards management. I wanted to see what really happens in the world. What companies do that make a difference.’ She was fascinated by bringing together scientific research with working in the private sector. So, early this year, she became a technology manager at WISTA Management GmbH. ‘Adlershof really is a special place,’ she says.

For the last three months, she has been in charge of supporting 50 forward-looking technology companies at ZPV, the Centre for Photovoltaics and Renewable Energies, and in two more buildings of the Centre for Photonics and Optics.

She sees herself as a facilitator of interdisciplinary synergies: ‘Sometimes our companies have never met their own neighbours.’ Petrović is eager to change this. While this is not so easy at the moment, her goal is to have people get to know each other and bring them closer together.

By Winfried Dolderer for Adlershof Journal