Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
In conversation with Miriam Kümmel
Hadron physicist – that does not sound like a career you aspired to back in primary school. How did you end up in this field?
In primary school, I wanted to be an inventor or novelist. After my A-levels, I had many more ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually, I decided to study mathematics and physics. I liked the abstract nature of mathematics. At the same time, I have always been interested in the physical meaning of the mathematical structures that I investigate.
Among the many fascinating phenomena in physics, I've always found quantum mechanics and particle physics the most exciting ones, because they are so fundamental and often counterintuitive.
Hadron physics aims at understanding how matter can be built from quarks as elementary components and how those components interact via the so-called strong interaction. The problems in this field can be either very concrete or incredibly abstract – I enjoy this diversity immensely!
Most of your colleagues are presumably men, or is that a misconception?
Yes, most of my colleagues are men. Amounting to 19 per cent, the female quota in our department is actually representative for the Faculty of Physics. When I first took up my studies, I did worry a bit that I might feel uneasy in a male-dominated environment. But I soon realised that I can relax around my fellow students, and the issue has not been relevant for me ever since.
In 2015, you took part in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting as junior researcher. What was that like?
I found it overwhelming to meet so many people who have made such significant contributions to advancement of knowledge in science. In their lectures, many shared personal stories from their lives and demonstrated their gratitude towards former teachers and their families.
The defining moment for me was when I had the chance to address Georg Schütte in a podium discussion, who, in his capacity as State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is responsible for international cooperation. For my PhD thesis, I am involved in the international experiment “Panda”, which is supposed to be conducted in the new international particle collider FAIR.
Due to potential cost savings during the construction of the collider, the realisation of the experiment “Panda” is at stake. I attempted to convey the significance of the experiment to Mr Schütte in front of an audience of 800 people. I very much hope that he took that into consideration during further negotiations that he conducted as member of the FAIR Council. The way this matter is going to be handled from now on will have a massive impact on Germany as an international research location.
16 October 2015