From Quarks to Qubits

After more than sixteen years at the ATLAS experiment it seems to be time for a change, and for me that change is going from quarks to qubits, and from a mix of fundamental research, teaching and science communication to a full-time job working on public engagement and didactics for the recently founded Munich Quantum Valley.

I started working on ATLAS back in 2005 as part of a student project with Troels Petersen at the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) in Copenhagen, Denmark. This project together with the particle-physics courses at NBI and Troels himself were to a large extent responsible for me joining ATLAS and particle physics in the first place. The high-energy-physics group at NBI kindly sending me to CERN to take part in the Summer Student lectures that summer then just sealed the deal (thanks so much once again).

After a quick return to Berlin, I then followed Troels’ invitation to also do my master thesis with him at NBI. I continued my work developing new and better methods for particle identification in the ATLAS transition-radiation detector using testbeam data and contributed to first studies of the potential of ATLAS and the LHC to measure the mass of the W boson.

After a hard time struggling to decide where to go next, I finally took up an offer for a PhD position at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU) and Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Zeuthen in 2007 to work with Herman Kolanoski and Klaus Mönig on top-quark physics and the commissioning of the ATLAS pixel detector. Since this time I am also a member of the ATLAS Monte Carlo production team with varying responsibilities over time.

After finishing my PhD at HU in 2010 I again had to choose where to go next, though this time more easily decided to once again followed an invitation by Troels to rejoin his group at NBI and to start working searches for signes of new physics with long-lived particle signatures – a journey I enjoyed every little bit of and that continued until today.

After about four years it was unfortunately time to leave Copenhagen and again time to choose. This time I ended up moving to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in München to lead a junior research group working on searches for new physics using unconventional event signatures and my habilitation (which I concluded in 2020). After taking over a few more responsibilities inside and outside ATLAS in that direction I, in 2018, finally took up the offer to become the ATLAS Education & Outreach coordinator to start another very pleasant journey in my career I am also still pursuing until today.

Same as for the first time I saw ATLAS back in 2005, I still get watery eyes when going down into the cavern today (and I still try to do it every time I go to CERN) and I will surely miss these moments a lot. The time in ATLAS in general, at the various institutes I had the pleasure to work at and in the various working groups within ATLAS has been a fantastic experience and pleasure and it is certainly not without grief that it has to end now.

One of the main reasons I decided to leave is the fact that especially with a family I did not really want to again move city or even country for yet another non-permanent position and could not yet convince anyone to give me a permanent one in a place that works for the whole family.

So instead I switch gears and take a full-time dive into science communication and education, a topic I really loved working on while leading the ATLAS Education & Outreach efforts for almost four years, as part of the newly founded Munich Quantum Valley (MQV). For MQV I will be part of the team developing the communication strategy and develop educational material for this new science initiative that includes key players like the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BadW), the Fraunhofer Society (FhG), the Max Planck Society (MPG), the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) and the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Thanks to everyone that has made this journey possible and the fun ride it has been!