Spotlight: Dagmar Rychnovska

Dagmar Rychnovská joined the IHS as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the beginning of May 2018 and will be working for two years with the TSST research group. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and specializes in security studies.

How did you come to work as a Marie Curie Fellow at the IHS?

I arrived quite accidently. The institute was actively looking for people who would like to apply for a Marie Curie fellowship, so I handed in my proposal and started working with the TSST group. We worked on the application for about four months and then submitted it together. Approximately five months later the EU gave its approval and I got the grant. During the application process the cooperation with Erich Griessler, Robert Braun and Anna Durnová was a great help.

Was it a tough competition?

The success rate in the past years has been between ten and fifteen percent, so it is quite a competition. When the approval arrived I was very surprised because I didn´t expect it. My research is quite specific and interdisciplinary, so I didn´t know how the reviewers would assess this. But apparently they liked it and so I was very excited to join the institution.

Did the prospect of working in Vienna a reason for your application or did you prepare for more scenarios?

It did play a role of course. I really like the IHS and the focus of the TSST research group because in my previous studies I came to a point where I wanted to learn about science and technology studies, something that I didn’t have any training in. I knew already that this is a field that’s quite flourishing in Vienna, so I was already thinking about some kind of cooperation with researches in Vienna before and the Marie Curie Fellowship was a very good opportunity to do truly interdisciplinary research. A second reason in favor of Vienna was more pragmatic: It allows me to commute from my home town Brno in the Czech Republic.

Did you have enough time to prepare your move to Vienna?

I think it was sufficient; the IHS helped me sort all the organizational matters out so I think it worked pretty well.

Are you accustomed to the city yet?

I am getting used to it. I really like Vienna it is a beautiful city full of history and culture so I’m looking forward to exploring it a bit more because I didn’t know Vienna that much before.

How were your first days at the IHS?

I got introduced both in terms of getting to know the research group as well as the administration. I already knew my colleague Anna Durnová from before and she was very helpful with introducing the work flows and procedures.

Let’s get into you academic background. How did you end up with your current project and the topics that you work on?

I started my studies in Prague were I did my Bachelor’s degree in International Studies at the University of Economics. At the time I was not really sided what to focus on so I went for a broader field. I then decided to study abroad and moved to Amsterdam. There I did my master’s degree in Law and Politics of International Security, which I found quite interesting. So I started to focus on security politics, international security issues and so forth. Because of my interest in research I decided to do one more master’s degree in Zurich at the ETH which was more research oriented. This was an excellent preparation for doing a PhD for which I decided to go back to Prague, but this time at the Charles University - the place that formed me the most. I specialized in security politics related to the governance of research, especially in relation to life sciences. A lot of innovations come up in that field that are discussed quite controversial and seen as potentially dangerous, e.g. synthetic biology. So it was a link between traditional topics of international relations and biological weapons, terrorism and new threats, while at the same time I started to dive into the area of how we govern and regulate research and innovation in our contemporary societies. This security-driven regulation of science and technology of research and innovation is what interests me the most at the moment.

Did you also teach during your academic career so far?

When I finished my PhD I was working for two years in Prague as a lecturer at the Metropolitan University but then decided that I would like to do more research which I missed at that position. That is why I applied for the Marie Curie Fellowship with the IHS.

You will be at the IHS for two years, what are you future academic plans?

I would definitely love to continue the research and hope that the research project will open up some new avenues. But whether this is going to happen in Vienna, Prague or somewhere else I don’t know. The ideal continuation for me would be to have my own project, perhaps with some bigger research group so that we can focus on the topics that I’m interested in with more colleagues.

Thanks for the interview!