Top athlete and Ph.D. student
“It is an honor to play for Germany, you feel special, want to do your best.”
“If you get an opportunity to compete in the Olympics, then you’re going to go for gold. That’s every athlete’s dream – and one that you are happy to work hard for.” That’s according to Dan Nguyen Luong, a field hockey player on the German national team, who also happens to be a graduate student at Roche in Mannheim.
He is part of the “Tokyo 2020” team and is working hard to prepare for this sporting dream with the help of his coach Peter Maschke at the Olympic base in Heidelberg. His daily routine is not for the faint-hearted – starting at 6:30 each morning with a training session in the gym. Then, at 8:30, he starts working on his doctoral thesis, before training with the team for two and a half hours in the afternoon.
So how does he do it? “I’m very disciplined, driven and focussed. I've learned to be this way from playing sport and I approach work the same way”, Dan explains. He is supported in doing so by his manager Carina Horn, Head of Department in Assay & Chemistry Process Development, and by Roche. “My involvement in high-performance sport naturally came up during my job interview. I made the point that my professional life had never suffered as a result of my sporting endeavours.” And this has proven to be the case, as his manager Carina Horn is very pleased with Dan’s progress: “It’s important to me that employees are able to balance their careers and their personal lives. And, of course, we want to help Dan achieve his dream of competing at the Olympic Games.”
Roche does all it can to support the young athlete – for example, by allowing him to work flexible hours and giving him time off for training and competitions – as well as by providing financial assistance with travel expenses. As a result, the state of Baden-Württemberg has named Roche a partner company for high-performance sports in its “Partnerbetrieb des Spitzensports” initiative. Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, State Minister for the Economy, Employment and Housing in Baden-Württemberg, conferred this award on Roche on 15 March this year in recognition of the company’s special commitment to its athletic employees.
This kind of commitment is not something that can be taken for granted. Many of Dan’s team- mates are still students or have established start-up companies so that they can combine their involvement in professional sports with their careers. Dan is something of an exception, being employed in a large company. However, despite his very hectic daily routine, he has managed to achieved a good balance between the physical exertion of hockey training and the mental concentration required to complete his doctoral thesis for submission to the University of Regensburg.
For his doctoral research, he is developing a new cardiac test strip with a high sensitivity for detecting cardiac markers in blood. He already worked on these test strips while completing his Master’s thesis in Biotechnology at Roche. Back then, he was investigating electrochemical test methods, whereas he is now focussing on optical. Incredibly, he still finds time for his friends and for enjoying good food – and, as a lover of sushi, he’s really looking forward to sampling the local cuisine in Tokyo.
Dan began playing hockey at six years of age, has made lots of friends in his club Mannheimer Hockey Club (MHC) and feels very much at home in the German national hockey family. What advice would the athlete have for kids today who share his Olympic dream? “Discipline is everything – you've got to keep your eyes on the prize at all times. You’ve got to give your all for this one moment.” His greatest moments to date have been winning his first national championship title in Berlin in 2010, winning the championship on home ground in Mannheim in 2017 and taking part in the World Cup in Berlin in 2018, with 16,000 fans providing a breathtaking backdrop.
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