Friday, June 22, 2012

30 under 30: Predicting What New Physics Will Look Like - Scientific American

Features | More Science

Meet Andrea Thamm, 24, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

German physicist Andrea ThammImage: Courtesy Andrea Thamm

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The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the 20th in a series of 30.

Name: Andrea Thamm
Age: 24
Born: Rostock, Germany
Nationality: German

Current position: Ph.D. student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and CERN
Education: Master of physics with Honors Mathematical Physics from the University of Edinburgh

What is your field of research?
I am working in theoretical high-energy physics, more specifically on beyond the Standard Model phenomenology. We try to extend the current description of particle physics to describe the properties of the elementary particles more precisely, and we check what signatures these models would have in an experiment.

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
I am very fascinated by the way mathematical equations can explain nature, and I’ve always wanted to understand more. My topic is quite theoretical and needs relatively advanced mathematical concepts to describe the properties of the elementary particles and their interactions. However, it’s still close enough to reality and to nature to describe observables which can actually be measured and prove a theory right or wrong. I like the idea to learn and reveal more about the building blocks of nature.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
If I manage I would really like to continue doing research. The field is so broad and the learning process very slow and I really want to understand more. It’s an exciting time for high-energy physics since the LHC just started running and there are many years of data taking ahead. This will for sure shed new light on some long-standing fundamental questions and I would love to be part of it.

Who are your scientific heroes?
There are a few people who I admire for their curiosity, creativity and stamina. My very personal hero, however, is my granddad, who has worked in physics all his life with a never-ending enthusiasm to understand just a bit more about the world we live in. Over the years he developed a very broad knowledge and ability to tackle problems. I would be very happy if I can keep my enthusiasm just as he does.

What activities outside of physics do you most enjoy?
I have played the piano for 15 years. Right now, it’s not so easy to find the time and, more importantly, a piano, but I’m trying to play more again and come back to it. I love dancing and reading, writing and the sea.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
The meeting provides a unique chance to meet so many Nobel laureates in such a stimulating environment. Not only will the opportunity to meet such successful personalities and to attend their lectures and seminars be very inspiring for my own research career, it will also open one's eyes to a wide spectrum of open questions in many different areas of science. Besides the lectures and the scientific program, it will be a great opportunity to meet other young researchers from all over the world, to discuss and talk, learn about science, cultures and languages. It is always very motivating and a lot of fun to stay in such an enthusiastic environment, exchange ideas and find new friends.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
Yes, I’m looking forward to meeting Martinus Veltman!

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