To content
Department of Physics

Interview with Carsten Westphal

To get to know Carsten Westphal a little better, we asked him a few questions:

What is a person of trust? Is there anything that distinguishes you as a person of trust?

In science and research, it can happen that processes do not conform to the "Guidelines for Ensuring Good Scientific Practice", which are described in the Code of good scientific practice of the German Research Foundation. The Ombudsperson of TU Dortmund University is clearly responsible for such cases.

In addition to such cases, there may also be a need for discussion and consultation that does not fall under the responsibility of the ombudsperson. This may be, for example, misunderstandings or conflicts within a working group between supervisors and supervisees. Here, the faculty offers a person of trust as a contact person as a mediation body, in line with the principles of effective career support.

Foto of Carsten Westphal © Carsten Westphal

A person of trust is first of all impartial and should be used as the first advisory contact point in the event of (perceived) unfair treatment or in the event of an emerging conflict. The person of trust does not replace the ombudsperson, but is intended to relieve the ombudsperson or to advise whether the ombudsperson's office is responsible in the course of the proceedings. If, in the course of a consultation, the impression arises, regardless of the point in time, that the consultation is not impartial, the relationship of trust is no longer suitable as a basis for the consultation. Other avenues such as another trusted person or the ombudsperson must then be considered as an alternative. I was active for a very long time as a dean of studies in the faculty of physics and have therefore become acquainted over the years with many facets that can occur in addition to a course of study according to the regular "menu plan". I think that this experience will also be useful in the future and will be happy to make that available as assistance in a consultation, if desired.

What kind of concerns can I come to you with?

In the case of (perceived) unfair treatment, this impression usually does not arise without reason. As a third, impartial person, the person of trust can evaluate these reasons with a little more distance than the person directly affected. Your concerns can come from very many different areas, an explicit list here would certainly not be complete. All I can say here is that if you think a conversation would help, then simply come by or we can arrange a ZOOM appointment. We quickly clarified whether the person of trust can clarify the matter or whether the ombudsperson is more responsible.

How can I tell if my supervisor is not being fair to me? What can I do in this case?

If there has been unfair behavior can only be discussed on a case-by-case basis. It is important that the relationship of trust between the supervisor and the student is undisturbed. If the impression arises that things are not quite right, then a discussion should take place as quickly as possible: either between the parties involved themselves, or first with the person of trust. The aim is to maintain a good working atmosphere.


My supervisor has not behaved fairly, but I don't want to blacken anyone's name either. How can I be sure that I won't make my situation worse if I talk to you?

As mentioned at the beginning: the person of trust is impartial and, of course, discreet. This is the only way a trusting constructive conversation works. To do this, I put myself in the position of a person who contacts the person of trust: what will this person expect from me? A neutral position, confidentiality, a constructive indication for the concern, and in more complex cases the recommendation to contact the ombudsperson.

What is the best way to reach you?

Very simple: By email, or by phone, or come directly to the office.