1 febbraio - 19 maggio

Vienna University, Austria


Q: Please send us a short presentation of you including, if possible, a picture.

I become interested in physics because of a bad sport teacher and had the luck that the more I study physics the more I get excited about it! There are more unsolved problems than solved ones and I hope that I can contribut to some solutions such that we get a deeper picture of our universe and ourselves!

Q: What are you working at now and what are your ambitions or expectations?

One research line is to test foundations of the peculiar quantum theory in high energy physics. Herewith I relate some very basic questions of quantum theory to some of the most basic questions in particle theory. My goal is to understand a possible deep structure behind it, what would give us some more understanding of our universe.

Q: How and for what reason was your interest for physics born? Which characters have influenced this choice? What is the most beautiful memory of your life as a student?

Everything started with a bad sport trainer in school! My schoolmate and I wanted to attend some afternoon courses together. The choices were volleyball, basketball and something named "physics Olympics". Clearly, volleyball was our first choice, but it turned out that it would be directed by our sport trainer...the only alternative was the "physics Olympics". We were only few pupils from different levels and had a lot of fun to find out what some old dusty things we found in the physics chamber did serve a purpose. We had a lot of heavily scientific disputes about which theory is the best one describing the experiments. Of course everyone wanted to have the "correct" one and the only way to win was to prove the other ones wrong. In the following year we made an excursion to CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) visiting the huge particle accelerator. This was the time point I started to be interested in quantum theory and particle physics which didn't yet stop nor decrease.
I very much enjoyed the inspiring life as a student and maybe one nice moment was when I was sitting in an advanced course in mathematics for physicists, which was at that time too advanced for me. The professor gave a theorem to us which we should prove. Essentially we had just to take another theorem, we had proven before, and adapted the proof. But I had the problem that I did not understand the theorem though I studied hard. Thus I tried to prove the theorem in a different way and I had luck, I could show it by a very elementary method. Of course, I presented it and the professor was really impressed that this advanced theorem can be proven by a such basic method! Nowadays I know that this different line of thinking is my greatest advantage (and at the same moment disadvantage).

Q: Which difficulties did you have to deal with in your career? What has given you the strength to carry on? Which was the most significant event of your career?

So far I was really lucky, found a very encouraging and supporting supervisor (Prof. Reinhold A. Bertlmann) for my Diploma Thesis and my PhD.
Then I got the chance to do my PostDoc in Spain again with very encouraging researchers. Then there was a little problem after a PostDoc position at the Zeilinger group (experimental physics) at the university of Vienna, but after few months I got the position as an assistant in mathematical physics. It was hard in the beginning because I did not know at lot of mathematical physics, but after few months I could even publish in this field. Since 2006 I am assistant professor in Theoretical Physics at the University of Vienna and have build up my own "quantum-particle" group of currently 13 students. Right now I have to renew my contract and with a two year old daughter and a husband working not in physics the additional constraints are high, but I hope that soon a door will somewhere open though because of the crises there are not many positions opening.

Q: Which do you believe will be the next discovery in physics, and how this might contribute in changing our lives?

It is always difficult to predict what comes next and as my scientific life so far did teach me there was always a surprise where I did not expect it.

Q: In your opinion, what has been the biggest discovery in physics and who has been your "reference-scientist"?

I think it is rather the way of thinking which is revolutionary. Doing gedanken experiments and finding deep and simple rules (laws) which still lead to the huge variety we see around us. I do not have any "reference-scientist".

Q: What characterizes research workplace and how is scientific collaboration organized?

The ideal surrounding for a researcher is an inspiring, encouraging place where all people are open for new ideas even if they may sound right now crazy. This of course includes that researchers have some social security and are not too dependent on the opinion of other scientists.

Q: Considering the crisis of inscriptions in scientific faculties, which do you retain are the reasons of the gap between young people and scientific studies and what may the world of research do in order to change this trend?

The problem may be traced back to how we do teach science in schools. Most people think e.g about physics that it is something only very intelligent and smart people can understand, what is of course not the case. An active public relation and good courses in school would change the situation.

Q: How can a scientist be defined and how do talent, intuition and study influence his profession?

I think there is not the typical scientist. As the problems we study are involved and subtle we need people with a lot of different talents working together.

Q: How do you spend your free time?

With my family and doing sports.

Q: In this period of economic crisis, how do you see the future of research and what do you think about the employment of nuclear energy for energetic aims?

Phuu, that's a hard and involved task. It depends on the details. Only one thing is clear, we have to learn to be careful with our resources, otherwise the future of our children will not be nice.