Profiles of our members

The Elite Network of Bavaria is brought to life by its members. We’d like to introduce a few of them as they describe their experiences and future plans.


A young man standing in front of castle Neuschwanstein

"This net­work has pro­vided me with inval­uable re­sources and the op­por­tunity to col­la­borate with a di­verse com­muni­ty of tal­ented stu­dents and lead­ing ex­perts."

Jingkang Zhao  •  Elite Graduate Program

A passion for the brain

“I have al­ways been fasci­nated by the com­plexi­ty of the hu­man brain, a cu­riosity origi­nally sparked by my broth­er's strug­gle with an intel­lectu­al disa­bil­ity”, ex­plains Jing­kang Zhao, when we asked him about his moti­va­tion. The alum­ni of the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram Neu­roen­gi­neer­ing is cur­rently work­ing on his PhD in neu­rosci­ence at the LMU Uni­versi­ty Hos­pital in Mu­nich.

But let’s start from the be­gin­ning: The pas­sionate young scien­tist came the long way from Japan to con­tinue his stud­ies in Ba­varia. After grad­uating with a bach­elor’s de­gree in bio­medi­cal engi­neer­ing from Niiga­ta Uni­versi­ty, he had stum­bled upon TUM’s Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram Neu­roen­gi­neer­ing in a Google search. The pro­gram’s unique con­cept of com­bining engi­neer­ing and neu­rosci­ence im­medi­ately in­trigued him and he de­cided to apply. Ini­tially un­sure whether he would feel at home in Mu­nich, Jing­kang Zhao quick­ly found a com­muni­ty in the pro­gram that only ac­cepts 20-30 new stu­dents each year: He and his classmates not only cele­brate birth­day and Christmas par­ties to­geth­er, but also in­spire each other with their dif­ferent aca­demic back­grounds and their scien­tific bril­liance. As the stu­dents’ back­grounds are inter­na­tional, Jing­kang Zhao looks for­ward to hav­ing a com­muni­ty of friends all around the world even later in life.

Support by the Elite Network of Bavaria

The men­toring pro­gram or­gan­ised by the Neu­roen­gi­neer­ing pro­gram has had a sig­nifi­cant im­pact on Jing­kang Zhao’s aca­demic and pro­fes­sional ca­reer. He bene­fited great­ly from his men­tor Dr. Afra Wohlschlä­ger, an expert in the analy­sis of neu­roim­aging data: “She not only guid­ed me through my stud­ies and career plan­ning, but also gave me inval­uable ad­vice on com­plet­ing my mas­ter's thesis and secur­ing a PhD posi­tion. Her input helped to refine my re­search focus and sharpen my aca­demic pro­file.”

Also, the gen­eral sup­port of the Elite Net­work has played a cru­cial role in Jing­kang Zhao’s de­velopment. “This net­work has pro­vided me with inval­uable re­sources and the op­por­tunity to col­la­borate with a di­verse com­muni­ty of tal­ented stu­dents and lead­ing ex­perts from a va­riety of disci­plines worldwide.” Due to the finan­cial sup­port he re­ceived he was able to par­tici­pate in inter­na­tional con­fer­ences, a sum­mer school, and a prac­tical course. “These ex­peri­ences not only broadened my pro­fes­sional net­work, but also sharpened my skills in pre­sent­ing and com­muni­cating in the scien­tific com­muni­ty.”

Cutting-edge research

Dur­ing his aca­demic career in the Neu­roen­gi­neer­ing pro­gram, Jing­kang Zhao was able to im­merse him­self not only in the meth­ods used to study brain func­tion, but also in their appli­cati­ons in clini­cal and indus­trial prac­tice. Here he iden­tified a com­muni­cation gap be­tween neu­rosci­entists and engi­neers that limits joint inno­va­tion. “This chal­lenge moti­vates me to act as an in­ter­medi­ary be­tween these two key fields and facili­tate a syn­ergis­tic ex­change of knowledge that can accel­erate pro­gress in the un­der­stand­ing and treatment of neu­rolog­ical dis­eas­es.”

Dur­ing his mas­ter’s thesis, Jing­kang Zhao fo­cused on the ener­gy effi­cien­cy of the hu­man brain as op­posed to the high ener­gy con­sump­tion of artifi­cial intel­li­gence. So-called ‘neu­ro­morphic com­puting’ aims to mim­ic the supe­rior func­tions of the brain, seek­ing appli­cati­ons in areas such as self-driving sys­tems. For his doc­torate his re­search fo­cuses on medi­cal image analy­sis of neu­ronal ac­tivi­ties, using artifi­cial intel­li­gence to iden­tify and classi­fy the fea­tures of vari­ous neu­ronal dis­eases to facili­tate diag­nosis and re­duce the risk of mis­classi­fica­tion.

Plans for his academic career

Jing­kang Zhao’s plan for the future is to work on mod­elling neu­ronal func­tion and dys­func­tion. Through the use of ad­vanced com­puta­tional mod­els, he hopes to un­cover the un­derly­ing mechanisms that gov­ern neu­ronal be­hav­iour in health and dis­ease.

As a lover of Ger­man cul­ture – espe­cially cas­tles as de­picted in Japa­nese anime games –, Jing­kang Zhao wants to con­tinue his aca­demic career in Ger­many for many years to come. He likes the open and di­verse work cul­ture he has expe­rienced in Ba­varia and the aca­demic op­por­tuni­ties avail­able to him. He espe­cially ap­preci­ates the sup­port he has re­ceived from the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia and would like to give some­thing back by con­trib­uting his tal­ents and his skills.

A woman is tanding on a stage behind a speaker's desk.

A cool idea from university becomes a successful start-up!

Dr. Melanie Langermeier  •  Elite Graduate Program

The start-up qbi­lon has set itself the goal of mak­ing the IT archi­tec­ture of com­pa­nies visi­ble on the basis of cur­rent data in order to en­sure their com­peti­tive­ness through tai­lor-made solu­tions. Fol­low­ing start-up fund­ing from the Fed­eral Min­istry of Eco­nom­ics, the com­pany was sold to Paessler AG in 2023. The brains be­hind the idea of 'ar­chitecture min­ing' is Dr. Melanie Langermei­er, grad­uate of the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gramm “Software Engi­neer­ing” at the Uni­versi­ty of Augsburg and CPO of qbi­lon

Elite Graduate Program “Software Engineering”

After com­plet­ing her Bach­elor's de­gree in Busi­ness In­for­mat­ics, Melanie Langermei­er joined the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram in Soft­ware Engi­neer­ing more or less by chance. To­day, she em­phasizes: “I par­ticu­larly bene­fited from the close men­toring rela­tion­ship and the team spirit on the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram. I felt that I was in good hands in the small co­hort and learned a lot pro­fes­sionally - and we also had a lot of fun!" Fur­ther­more, she bene­fited from the soft skill and team-building semi­nars as well as the con­tacts in the busi­ness world that the course of­fers.

Mentoring as key faktor

Melanie Langermei­er iden­tifies the excel­lent men­toring as one of the major ad­van­tages of the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram: “The sup­port from my future doc­toral su­pervi­sor Prof. Bern­hard Bauer in par­ticu­lar made a ma­jor dif­fer­ence to my ca­reer.” Prof. Bau­er's net­work made it pos­sible for her to write her mas­ter's thesis in Oslo and his per­sonal com­mit­ment moti­vated her to pur­sue a doc­torate, dur­ing which the idea and first proto­types of 'Ar­chitecture Min­ing' were de­veloped. Melanie Langermei­er ven­tured into the prac­tical im­ple­men­tation of her idea by founding a start-up to­gether with three col­leagues, also being aware of her strong men­tor and his sup­port.

From the idea to founding a start-up

“We were really facing a lot of chal­leng­es. It was a bit of a rollercoast­er ride at the be­gin­ning,” re­calls Melanie Langermei­er. But what moti­vated her through all the diffi­cul­ties was the har­mo­nious col­la­bora­tion with her team and the op­por­tunity to im­ple­ment her ideas. She finds the direct feed­back she re­ceives from cus­tomers, to whom she can pro­vide tai­lor-made solu­tions to prob­lems, par­ticu­larly re­ward­ing. “You come out of uni­versi­ty with a cool idea, but you don't know if any­one can really use it.” That was exact­ly the case for Melanie Langermei­er. Now she can ob­serve in real time how the 'cool idea from uni­versi­ty' finds a prac­tical im­ple­men­tation in reali­ty and meets an actual need. She is also pleased that she now works with many wom­en in her com­pany. “In my field, I was rather exotic as a wom­an at uni­versi­ty, but that was never a prob­lem for me.”

To­day, she ad­vises young founders not to be dis­couraged by set­backs and to trust in their own abili­ties.

Porträt Jasmin Katharina Stein, geb. Shokoui

In the Elite Network of Bavaria, I have found the intellectual environment that I have always wanted.

Jasmin Katharina Stein, geb. Shokoui  •  Max Weber Program, Elite Graduate Program

As an alumna of the Elite Graduate Program RESET (Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology) and the Max Weber Program, Jasmin Katharina Stein (née Shokoui) is connected to the Elite Network in many ways. She not only benefited from the academic and financial support, but also made great use of the additional opportunities for personal development.

Ms. Stein, what are you currently working on?

I am currently at the beginning of a PhD in Science, Technology and Society Studies on the topic of responsibility and innovation dynamics in the field of quantum computing. This field is particularly attractive due to its current rapid development. Many things that were previously inconceivable are now feasible and companies are sensitized to this 'AI of tomorrow'. Technological developments have a strong influence on social coexistence within society. For example, I examine why some people are more receptive to new technological developments than others and what impact these different attitudes towards technology have on society. I would describe the second dimension of my work as responsibility: How can future technology development be shaped responsibly?

You completed your Master's degree in the Elite Graduate Program "Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology (RESET)". Why did you choose this course and what was special about it compared to a regular one?

At first, I found the term " Elite Graduate Program" intimidating and I didn't know whether I could actually trust my abilities. Now I am very glad that I had the courage to apply. The RESET program not only inspired me in terms of the subject matter, but also contributed to my development thanks to the close relationship between the lecturers and students. Without this academic, organisational and personal guidance, my path would certainly have been different! This type of mentoring is particularly valuable for young people like me who don't come from an academic background. Events such as a team-building weekend have brought us even closer together as a group. Through the Elite Graduate Program, I was also recommended for the Max Weber Program, which opened up even more opportunities for me.

Can you explain this in more detail? What opportunities were offered to you through the Elite Network?

Thanks to the support of the Elite Network, I was able to complete an internship in Copenhagen and take part in an Italian language course in Florence. Not only did I discover new languages, different societies and cultures, but I also made friends for life. I also remember very well a conference at the Akademie für Politische Bildung in Tutzing on the subject of "Power", which was intellectually very stimulating. Finally, I rediscovered my love of playing the violin by taking part in the music academy. In the Elite Network of Bavaria, I found the intellectual environment that I had always wanted.

You have been active in many ways for the Elite Network of Bavaria, for example as a "Weberin vor Ort". What drives you?

Through my involvement, I wanted to give something back. As a "Weberin vor Ort", I organised various events for other members of the Max Weber Program in Munich - everything from a philosophy evening to yoga session. I got to know so many inspiring individuals in the Elite Network and then wanted to bring people with similar interests together to initiate collaborations or friendships. It also taught me how to coordinate large groups and take responsibility for them.

What advice would you give to young people who are considering applying for a program of the Elite Network?

Just try it, even if you have reservations about it. Seize this unique opportunity!

A woman with long, brown hair sits at her desk and smiles at the camera.

Expose yourself to new experiences and challenge yourself.

Prof. Dr. Nora Kory  •  Max Weber Program

The former scholarship holder of the Max Weber Program (MWP) Nora Kory studied biochemistry at LMU Munich and heads her own independent research group at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. There she encourages young researchers to try new approaches and ideas.

Ms. Kory, you are an Assistant Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. What research questions are you currently working on?

I am currently working on finding out how mitochondria, the power plants and met-abolic spaces of our cells, exchange metabolic products and enzymatic co-factors with the rest of the cell. Mitochondria play an important role in central biological processes. In order to fulfill their diverse functions, mitochondria constantly exchange molecules with the rest of the cell. This exchange takes place via transport proteins in the inner mitochondrial membrane. We want to understand exactly how these processes take place at the molecular level. We are also investigating the role that transport processes in mitochondria play in ageing processes and in dis-eases such as diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

You come from Heidelberg and studied molecular biology at LMU Munich. What academic path or what decisions led you to the USA?

As I became particularly interested in the regulation of metabolic processes at the cell biological level during my studies at LMU Munich, and the Gene Center at LMU was mainly specialized in structural biology at the time, I sought research experience outside the university early on, for example at ETH Zurich and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. I first ventured to the USA for my Master's thesis. There I had the opportunity to work for nine months in a world-leading laboratory at the Whitehead Institute/MIT. Ultimately, I was attracted by the way fundamental questions are asked in research here and new methods are developed and applied to answer them. That's why I decided to do my PhD and post-doc on the East Coast. When I applied for professorships and independent group leader positions, I saw a tenure track position in Boston as a unique opportunity not only to build up my research program, but also to develop it in new directions in the long term.

 Looking back, what role did the Max Weber Program play on this path?

The Max Weber Program has given me the opportunity to interact with other students pursuing similar goals and to connect with mentors who have guided me along the way. This network has opened doors for other scholarships and research opportunities.

Today you work as a professor at Harvard. Would you say that this is a dream come true for you?

When I started my studies, I certainly would never have dreamed of one day working as a professor at Harvard. When it became clear to me towards the end of my PhD that it would be a dream for me to lead an independent research group, that was my main motivation to do a postdoc and also to stay in the USA. The feeling of walking into my lab for the first time and seeing a whole team working on my ideas is indescribable. I am grateful to be able to work with colleagues from all over the world who are enthusiastic about our research questions. It's great how often you come into contact with other researchers who have discovered fundamental correlations and on whose work entire fields of research are based.

You started out as a doctoral student and postdoc in the USA. You now work there yourself with junior researchers. Would MWP scholarship holders have the opportunity to apply to you?

The experience I gained here as a master's student has shaped me in the long term and my team and I are happy to pass on our knowledge and enthusiasm for basic research into the role of cellular organelles in metabolism and how changes in them lead to diseases. We have interesting research projects that motivated students can work on. This works best in the context of a stay of at least five or six months, so that there is sufficient time to familiarize yourself with the laboratory and hopefully contribute to a publication. Interested scholarship holders are welcome to apply to us - motivation, previous research experience, personal initiative and grades are aspects that we take into account.

What recommendation would you give young people today for a career in science - whether in Germany or the USA?

Invest in your training and take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to you. Expose yourself to new experiences and challenge yourself. Go to a laboratory where you will learn to ask fundamental research questions, think independently and question traditional assumptions and contexts. Dare to try out new things, for example experiments, and make mistakes - these often lead to new and unexpected findings.

"Academic work is rarely straightforward and a good network is worth gold, especially when it comes to discussing your own progress and failures."

Paula Engelke  •  Marianne-Plehn-Program

For Paula Engelke, the com­bi­nation of a doc­toral schol­arship and a posi­tion as part of the Mari­an­ne-Plehn-Pro­gram was a com­plete suc­cess. As a young moth­er of three chil­dren, how­ever, rec­oncil­ing her aca­demic work with caring for her chil­dren was a par­ticular chal­lenge.

How can fear actu­ally be 'un­learned'? Paula Engelke has ex­plored this ques­tion since she began her doc­torate at the Chair of Clini­cal Psy­chol­ogy and Psy­cho­thera­py at the Uni­versi­ty of Würzburg. The Studienstif­tung has sup­port­ed her with a doc­toral schol­arship since 2019. "Anx­iety disor­ders can lead to severe re­strictions in eve­ryday life. In so-called ex­po­sure-based meth­ods, pa­tients are re­peat­edly con­front­ed with a fear-inducing stimu­lus with­out the actual feared event occur­ring," ex­plains the schol­arship hold­er. " How­ever, even after the thera­py has been suc­cess­fully com­plet­ed, the fear re­turns again and again." Pau­la Engelke would like to un­der­stand the un­derly­ing mech­anisms of this pro­cess in great­er detail with her labor­ator­y-exper­imental re­search and thus con­trib­ute to an im­proved treat­ment of anxie­ty disor­ders.

Additional experience through her work in the research project

To­wards the end of 2020, Paula Engelke ap­plied for the MPP and start­ed her new posi­tion in a re­search pro­ject at her chair in March 2021. "This also al­lowed me to gain fur­ther expe­rience in su­pervising stu­dents. I was also able to gain many prac­tical im­pres­sions of eve­ryday thera­peutic prac­tice by at­tend­ing case dis­cussions," says the 30-ye­ar-old, look­ing back on her work until the be­gin­ning of 2024. It was also the stronger inte­gra­tion into an aca­demic envi­ron­ment that helped Paula Engelke with her doc­torate: "Aca­demic work is rarely straightforward and a good net­work is worth gold, espe­cially when it comes to dis­cuss­ing your own pro­gress and fail­ures."

Doing a PhD with children

Paula Engelke is not just pro­fes­sionally based in Würzburg, where she com­pleted her Bach­elor's and Mas­ter's de­grees. It is also the home of her family of five. Alt­hough she had al­ready expe­rienced the com­pati­bility of aca­demic work and care work dur­ing her stud­ies, she found doing a doc­torate with chil­dren chal­leng­ing: "The possi­bility of being able to work at any time occa­sionally made me feel guilty when I want­ed to spend time with my chil­dren or was re­spon­sible for care work."

How­ever, the indi­vidual struc­ture of the doc­toral schol­arship helped her to organ­ise her eve­ryday family life, which changed again with the birth of her third child in the sec­ond year of her doc­torate and the lack of exter­nal child­care due to the pan­dem­ic. "My posi­tion as an em­ploy­ee with social secu­rity cov­erage gave me more lee­way in plan­ning my paren­tal leave," says Paula Engelke. Net­work­ing with other par­ents work­ing on their doc­torates was also help­ful for the young psy­chologist, as simi­lar chal­lenges and ques­tions often arose de­spite dif­ferent disci­plines. "Even though my expe­rienc­es with the schol­arship and at my uni­versi­ty have been pre­domi­nantly posi­tive, many struc­tures in the aca­demic world have only just start­ed to sys­temat­ically factor in care re­spon­sibili­ties."

The schol­arship holder was there­fore par­ticu­larly pleased that it was possi­ble for chil­dren and care­givers to partic­ipate in the vari­ous events of the pro­gram with­out any prob­lems. "The MPP is a great addi­tion to the doc­toral schol­ar­ship, espe­cially be­cause of the great flexi­bility with regard to the loca­tion and de­sign of the posi­tion, and it was easy for me to com­bine my doc­torate with rais­ing my chil­dren."

Porträt Prof. Tobias Vogl

There is no such valuable guidance as that provided by a mentor who has already walked the path.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Vogl  •  Max Weber Program

Quantum technology - everyone has heard of it, but very few people have a concrete understanding of it. Prof. Dr. Tobias Vogl, alumnus of the Max Weber Program, is a professor at the Technical University of Munich in the field of quantum communication. He gave the Elite Network an insight into this exciting field and his career.

Professor Vogl, can you briefly introduce yourself and your research?

I have been Professor of Quantum Communication Systems Engineering at the Technical University of Munich since July 2023. Quantum communication is about encoding information from single light particles and using them as a means of communication. The benefit of this is that this information medium cannot be manipulated or intercepted - this is very important for encryption. Current encryption methods will no longer be secure in the foreseeable future, so quantum communication is a possible alternative in the future. Basic research has been conducted for 40 years, but the technical implementation is very complex. The light is to be transmitted by satellite. We are currently in the process of building a satellite that can be used for quantum communication with various locations around the world. There are still a few obstacles to overcome, from the energy supply of the components on the satellite to vibrations during the rocket launch - so it keeps being exciting!

What were the most important stages of your career and why did you choose Bavaria as a science location?

After studying at LMU Munich, I completed my doctorate in Canberra, Australia, where I was able to develop the basic technology for my research. After my doctorate, I led a junior research group in Jena and was awarded the € 400,000 "INNOspace Masters Award" from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in 2021. However, my longer-term goal was always to return to Bavaria, partly for family reasons and partly because of the excellent conditions for quantum technology in and around Munich. The appointment to the professorship at TUM with initial funding from Munich Quantum Valley was completely unexpected for me and shows that quantum technology is no longer a curiosity from the laboratory, but can actually be applied. Fortunately, Bavaria has understood that it is important to be internationally competitive in this security-relevant field in order to avoid having to buy the technology from other countries and to create local value chains.

How did you become a member of the Elite Network of Bavaria and what did you gain by joining it?

I had heard from a fellow student about the university selection for the Max Weber Program. I asked a professor whether he would recommend me for funding and at the same time I was nominated by the examination board. I was very happy to be accepted and benefited greatly from the funding. For example, I was able to take part in a language course in England, which greatly improved my academic English. I also remember a soft skills seminar in Beilngries on scientific writing, which taught me great techniques to present my scientific findings in publications and talks, which I still use in my work today. After all, science is also about making topics accessible to the wider public and not just the scientific community.

Why and how are you involved in the Elite Network?

Mentoring under the Max Weber Program had a profound impact on me. Prof. Sausen from DLR Oberpfaffenhofen gave me valuable advice and allowed me a deep insight into his research areas. He also taught me what it means to work in research and what is important when planning a scientific career. There is no such valuable guidance as that provided by a mentor who has already walked the path. Based on this positive experience, I myself am involved in the Max Weber Program as a reviewer in the selection seminar and as a mentor. I would like to be the contact person for all possible questions relating to studies and research and not only impart content, but also pass on my personal experience.

Portrait: Aisha Abdul Quddus

I’ve been privileged to have great opportunities, and I want to pave the way for more girls and people of different ethnic groups to take up places in STEM.

Aisha Abdul Quddus  •  Elite Graduate Program

Aisha Abdul Quddus, a graduate of the Elite Graduate Program "Advanced Materials and Processes" (MAP), has a very vibrant and energetic personality. Since coming to Erlangen from Pakistan to join the MAP program, she has managed to bring people together and to inspire them with her academic brilliance and with her commitment to helping others.

Best possible study conditions

After completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Qatar, Aisha  Abdul Quddus was interested in both chemistry and materials science. For her, the MAP Elite Graduate Program was “the best of both worlds”, giving her insights into many different topics with real-world applications, taught by excellent experts. She particularly appreciated the support she got from the dedicated MAP staff, from adjusting to life in Germany to organising stays abroad. Aisha received a one-year scholarship from MAP and the financial support helped her tremendously to focus on her studies. The workshops and seminars included in the program, as well as the alumni meetings, helped her to develop her soft skills and social network.

An outstanding student

During her studies, Aisha was involved in many community activities, both outside and within the MAP program, including focusing on the welfare and integration of international students. She helped them find accommodation, answered their questions and generally made them feel at home. Her commitment to others is driven by a desire to be the best version of herself, making the most use of her resources and skills. She wants to use her abundant energy to make a difference. In recognition of her achievements, Aisha was awarded the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Prize in 2023. It honours international students at the FAU who have made a lasting impression during their studies in Germany through their outstanding academic achievements and their commitment to social or intercultural projects.

Her mission

Coming from a family of engineers, her interest in chemical engineering came naturally, but in her field  Aisha Abdul Quddus was usually the only woman on any team. Her dream is to advocate for bias-free workplaces for everyone and she aspires to be a female role model: “I’ve been privileged to have great opportunities, and I want to pave the way for more girls and people of different ethnic groups to take up places in STEM.”

After graduating from MAP in 2023, Aisha Abdul Quddus took her first steps in the corporate world. During her internships at Agfa in Antwerp and RWE in Essen, she discovered her passion for managing her own projects and developing real products for real customers. She feels that she still has so much left to learn and this is what drives her to meet new people, share her story, and take every opportunity to learn.

It feels good to spark new research projects with interesting results

Julian Wienand  •  Marianne-Plehn-Program

The Mari­anne-Plehn-Pro­gram ena­bled Julian Wienand to com­bine his exper­imental doc­toral thesis with work in a theo­retical re­search group at LMU Mu­nich. He feels very much at home in the city, and not just be­cause of the pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions. In the final phase of his doc­torate, he has not yet de­cided what to do next.

The topic of Julian Wienand's dis­serta­tion, which he began in July 2020, sounds ra­ther com­plex at first: quan­tum simu­lation exper­iments us­ing ul-tra­cold atoms in opti­cal lattic­es. He ex­plains his re­search as fol­lows: "We ma­nipu­late indi­vidual atoms trapped in a lattice of light with lasers and use them to study the fun­damental phys­ics of quan­tum many-body sys­tems". From the be­havior of the at­oms, con­clu­sions can be drawn about phe­nomena in solid-state phys­ics. "You can com­pare it to an air­plane model that is tested in a wind tun­nel. It's easier and safer than build­ing the plane and test­ing it in the open air".

Theory and experience

Dur­ing his stud­ies in Würzburg and Mu­nich, the 27-ye­ar-old be­came in­creas­ingly en­thusi­astic about exper­imental phys­ics. "I find it excit­ing to be able to see with my own eyes and help shape how an idea be­comes an exper­imental reali­ty," says Julian Wienand. De­velop­ing the tech­nolo­gy and work­ing on the per­fect exper­imental set-up make his day-to-day work in the lab varied and di­verse. How­ever, it was clear to Julian Wienand that his doc­toral pro­ject would not only re­quire tink­ering in the labor­atory, but also a com­pre­hen­sive theo­retical un­der­stand­ing of the un­derly­ing physi­cal sys­tems. As part of the Mari­anne Plehn Pro­gram, he was able to com­bine his exper­imental work with a posi­tion in an­other theo­retical re­search group. "This gave my doc­torate an addi­tional di­men­sion. In addi­tion to access to a great deal of theo­retical knowledge, this also in­cludes the op­por­tunity to pre­sent my work to a new audi­ence and gain new impe­tus in dis­cussions with theo­retical physi­cists," he re­ports.

Broad interests

Mu­nich was not only the right loca­tion for Julian Wienand be­cause of the aca­demic con­nec­tions, but also due to the wide range of leisure activi­ties and the rich cul­tural offer­ings. As he did dur­ing his stud­ies, he con­tinued to organ­ize hiking tours for other stu­dents. "Be­ing out in nature to­gether is inspir­ing, in­vites excit­ing con­versa­tions and cre­ates friendships," says the for­mer schol­arship hold­er. Addi­tional­ly, he also plays the dou­ble bass, most re­cently in the Mu­nich stu­dent or­ches­tra, and com­poses and ar­ranges his own piec­es. He also im­ple­ments small­er IT pro­jects. He is fasci­nated by being able to solve tasks more effi­cient­ly and better with just a few re­sources: "With a little know-how, al­most any­one can create beau­tiful and useful things out of noth­ing - with­out mate­rial re­sources, just with code and time.

And after the doctorate?

The final phase of his doc­torate also raised the ques­tion of the future for Julian Wienand. He in­creas­ingly doubted his origi­nal plan to stay in aca­demia in the long term: "It feels good to have con­tributed to my field through my work and to have sparked new re­search pro­jects through inter­esting re­sults," he says, "but in­stead of stay­ing in a niche area, I would prefer to be able to deal with a broader range of top­ics." He advis­es other doc­toral can­di­dates to con­sider alter­na­tives out­side of aca­demia at an early stage and to make tar­geted use of the events and net­work the pro­gram offers for this pur­pose. It is not yet clear where and how Julian Wienand will con­tinue: the moun­tains and the near­est opera house should not be too far away, how­ever.