• Portrait of Prof. Dr. Anna Maria von Saucken

    Prof. Dr. Anna Maria von Saucken, Berlin School of Economics and Law

Prof. Dr Anna Maria von Saucken deals with the interaction between humans and machines. This is a decidedly interdisciplinary field, because computer science, engineering, interface design and psychology all come together here. Coming from an artistically oriented family, the Brain City Ambassador brings openness and creativity to her work. She also likes to set new impulses in teaching.

“I was born in Berlin in the Charité and grew up in Berlin-Mitte. The Charité and its enthusiastic doctors and scientists have always fascinated me, even though the premises were incredibly dilapidated for many years. But the young and, of course, already experienced scientists were always indifferent to that. They came here to advance research at an internationally high level.”

Prof. Dr  Anna Maria von Saucken also wants to move things forward. Her work as a professor for business informatics in the department of dual studies at the HWR Berlin is not just a job for her, rather it is a calling. The Brain City Ambassador comes from an artistic family: her father a ballet choreographer, her mother a successful solo harpist, her brother a dancer. However, Anna Maria von Saucken was drawn to science: She decided on computer science – not entirely without initial doubts. “Shortly before the end of my bachelor’s degree, I was unsure whether I would be happy with a conservative job and life. So I did an intensive directing course with my father during the semester break. It was extremely exhausting and there was a lot to prepare. As a final exam, I then recited a poem on the streets of Stockholm that we had rehearsed for weeks in terms of language, gesture, facial expressions, posture, and expression. That is when I realised how much work and planning went into every detail. And I realised how much I already knew about computer science, software architecture and data structures and how easy it was for me to acquire new knowledge with curiosity. That is probably just what my father was trying to teach me.”

Openness to new things also shaped the further path of Anna Maria von Saucken. After completing her studies in business informatics at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW Berlin), she did her doctorate in the field of medical technology at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). She gained her first teaching experience at the HWT Berlin and the Code University of Applied Sciences Berlin. Today, her professional focus is on researching the interaction between humans and machines. “I try to explain why there are difficulties in the interaction between humans and machines. Our projects are primarily about human errors that people make when using software, and how we can significantly reduce them when designing software and its interface.”

Berlin has a high density of universities, colleges and research institutions. This also results in a high degree of professional diversity, which is extremely beneficial to interdisciplinary research.

In 2021, the Brain City Ambassador received third place in the UNICUM Foundation’s “Professor of the year” national competition. The jury honoured her for her commitment to teaching and her exceptional teaching concepts. A notable example is: In the introductory event of her online lectures, she briefly presents several key topics. The students can then define their top 3 thematically via live voting. In order to make her learning events practical, Anna Maria von Saucken brings interview partners from her professional and private networks to the online courses or records interviews in advance.

She also actively supports students in topics such as brainstorming. “I teach students that as a new generation they can positively change prevailing ways of working and outdated perspectives. This requires a 'digital mindset' with agility in project work, the ability to network, the ability to work in a team in large software projects, dealing with complexity as well as curiosity, openness and problem recognition and breaking them down into sub-problems,” says Anna Maria von Saucken and adds: I am convinced that students notice whether you are really passionate about a subject and convey knowledge with enthusiasm and humour.”

The Brain City Berlin offers Anna Maria von Saucken ideal conditions for her interdisciplinary research, above all due to the high density of universities, colleges and research institutes. “The scientists that I have got to know in Berlin are very open to interdisciplinary exchange or joint research projects. For example, we could build prototypes with engineers from the TU Berlin, which we test together with doctors and medical staff from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, in order to collect and evaluate studies on human-machine interaction with cognitive psychologists from the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. You can always find cooperation partners from business in Berlin.”

Above all, Anna Maria von Saucken recommends that young scientists who want to start their careers in Berlin science build and maintain a large network. “You always meet someone twice.” Her advice especially for young female scientists: “Please also apply for positions and internships where you do not (yet) meet the criteria. Sometimes you are lucky and you get a kind of leap of faith in the potential that is seen in you.” In the Brain City Berlin – according to the native Berliner’s experience – everything is possible thanks to the openness and tolerance of the people. “Berlin is incredibly lively and open. People of all colours, social classes and levels of education meet here without reservations and usually quite quickly get on the same footing. Only in exceptional cases have I experienced this in other cities around the world.”

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