Student Talk is a series of interviews with students that have developed their thesis under my supervision at IUBH University of Applied Sciences on projects we have designed for and that have achieved an outstanding performance.

The main purpose of Student Talk is to showcase talented students, support their professional digital trace, highlight their ideas and hopefully inspire new students.

This time we hand over the microphone to Katharina Pantle. She developed an excellent study and very well written thesis involving employees’ behavior towards the workplace following the diagnosis of cancer.

Katharina, the stage is yours!


1. Katharina, tell us a bit about your life story, where you come from, what study program you attended, what are your passions and what are you doing at this stage in life.

I spent my youth in a small city close to Frankfurt am Main. After my A-levels I started an apprenticeship in the hotel Villa Kennedy, Rocco Forte, where I became a trained hotel professional with additional certified qualifications in hotel management. Afterwards I studied at the International University Bad Honnef, here, I achieved my bachelor degree in hospitality management, Fast Track. I have always been interested in the field of Human Resource Management and hence, this was a particular motivation for me in choosing my degree pathway.

The study of HRM has proved to be particularly gratifying for me and therefore, I decided to further my academic knowledge and to study a broader field in management. Before now, I have not lived outside Germany and as my undergraduate degree was delivered in English, my aim was to move abroad and to continue my studies in English. Consequently, I am now a postgraduate student at the University of St Andrews studying Mlitt International Business with HR modules in ‘Managing People in Global Markets’ and ‘Leadership Management’.

2. You have developed a research thesis of exceptional quality. How would you describe your study (Please include research aim, when it took place, method (s), data collection process and sample sizes)?

The aim of my thesis was to investigate, retrospectively, the involvement within the workplace for individuals after having been diagnosed with cancer to identify its impact on happiness. I began my research in May 2018, collected primary data until the end of July and handed-in my thesis in mid-August of the same year.

To gather primary data, I chose a mixed research design to gain an accurate view of individuals and to overcome weaknesses that are related to the usage of only one research design. Quantitative data was collected through the use of a structured online survey, followed by qualitative data collection through face-to-face, in-depth interviews.

By collecting data from my published online survey, my aim was to identify general perceptions of the involvement at the workplace and to anticipate in which way certain groups of people behave. Thus, individuals who experienced cancer and individuals who never suffered from this illness were compared to illuminate diverging in variables of: happiness levels, importance of work, work-related motivation and self-concepts. I experienced some difficulty in identifying cancer patients that were suitable for my investigation (due to research subjects having to have worked before and after their illness). Nevertheless, 101 survey responses could be used for statistical evaluation.

Afterwards, 11 in-depth face-to-face interviews were undertaken to make more comprehensive assertions around the self-reflection of cancer patients towards their individual perceptions of the importance of work.

3. What are the main application (s) of your research findings for society or the industry? And how would you suggest for researchers to advance in this topic?

The prospect of their own mortality was thrust on Cancer patients earlier than anticipated. As consequence, patients were compelled to reconsider what really matters in life. As statistically proven, the disease rate (but also the survival rate of cancer patients) will increase substantially in future, more emphasis should be placed on the impact this disease has on the job, but also in the general change of attitudes.

Organizations, HR managers, politicians and most importantly, wider society should listen and learn from these people in order to enhance overall quality of life and to make people happier. Happiness should be the overall life goal in every society and for every human being. Nothing else matters.

4. If you were to start all over again, what would you have done differently in your study?

Retrospectively, If I were to conduct similar research again, I would attempt to conduct my online questionnaire a little earlier to obtain more research responses. I underestimated the difficulty I would experience in reach out to cancer patients, whom felt compelled to participate in my survey and who fulfilled the requirements. More participants would have ensured the reliability of the study.

Furthermore, for my in-depth-interviews, I may have benefited from a more diverse sample of interview partners, with an equal number of male and female interview partners and a more diverse distribution of cancer illnesses (as many of my interview partners were female and experienced breast-cancer).

5. As you have achieved an exceptional performance writing your thesis, what are the main suggestions you would give to any student that is about to start or is already writing their thesis?

 My general recommendation is to write about a topic you anticipate shall have a useful application in your later career. Choosing a method of data collection that allows you to build rapport with industry experts may heighten your career prospects after your studies. When you have chosen your topic, try to think about questions that might be important for the data collection, when you write your literature review. While evaluating models in the lit. review, first ideas and questions should be written down to ensure that all important topics are covered in the online questionnaire.

And most importantly: Give yourself small deadlines for EVERYTHING. Make a schedule for the whole week and at the beginning of each day, set goals that need to be achieved by the end of the day. In that case, you will never experience too much pressure to finish your thesis and you can enjoy the free evenings much more, as you know that you’re on track.

Lastly, I experienced, that for me it was the best to do all research (including extracting and ordering bullet points of all papers) in the afternoon and finally write the extensive text in the morning, where the level of concentration/focus is the highest.

6. How important is music in your life and what does it mean to you?

Most present is music in my life, when I am in my car. I would never drive without listening to it. Especially as I am not a good singer, I can use the time to sing with the songs, where nobody can hear me. At home, music is nearly always on in the background.

7. What were you listening to while writing your thesis? In addition, what would suggest for anyone to listen while writing his or her research?

Honestly, I just listened to some playlists on Spotify. However, only really quietly, so that I don’t run into danger to sing or listen to it more than focusing on my thesis. Therefore, playlists with songs I did not know, were helpful.

8. Finally, what are your next professional plans and how can employers find you?

Until end of August 2019 I’ll be studying at University of St Andrews and afterwards I would love to work in the field of HR – either in a larger, international organization or in HR consulting.

Potential employers can find me on LinkedIn or can reach me through my email address.