Nikhef-masterstudent Philine van Vliet blogt over Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

27 juni 2019

I’m Philine van Vliet, a master student in Theoretical Physics at the University of Amsterdam. I am currently finishing my master thesis at Nikhef, about Flavour Physics and CP Violation.
From the 30th of June until the 5th of July, I will be attending the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physics, where 600 young physicists are coupled to 50 Nobel laureates, to talk about science, life, and careers. I will write about my experiences in a short blog, sharing interesting physics, life-changing advice and other juicy stories.

Several months ago I was nominated for the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physics, in March I heard that I was selected to go and now, it’s only a couple of days before I will travel to Lindau to meet, listen to and talk to 39 physics Nobel Laureates. The Meeting is held every year, bringing together young scientists (master students, PhDs and postdocs),
and Nobel Laureates. Each year, another branch of science is picked out and this year it’s physics. There will be roughly 600 people attending from 89 countries, and the 6-day meeting is filled with lectures, lunches, science walks and master classes. Enough to enjoy and write about at least!

So the last days are filled with packing bags, preparing a presentation, and reading all about the Nobel Laureates like a teen girl obsessing over her favourite celebrities. Brian Schmidt did not only provide evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but is also a winemaker and cool climate grape grower. Donna Strickland is claustrophobic and afraid of heights, two reasons why she didn’t become an astronaut, but instead she figured out a way to make ultra-short, high-intensity laser pulses. Lists of favourite foods/books/colours of the Nobel Laureates will possibly be included in the next blog post.

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m taking a break from practising my presentation for the masterclass “Teaching Physics” by Carl Wieman. He won a Nobel Prize for making the first Bose Einstein condensate, an ultracold gas that has quantum mechanical properties. Together with Eric Cornell, he cooled rubidium atoms to 20 nanokelvin, that is 0.000 000 02 degrees above absolute zero. Besides that, he has spent 30 years doing research on teaching science and physics in particular.

I have been teaching bachelor physics courses since the last year of my Bachelor’s, and I love doing it. I can go on talking about physics for hours anyway, especially at parties after a
glass of wine, and being able to help students understand something they really want to learn is a great feeling. I am really looking forward to all the tips and advice Wiemann can
give! There will be three people presenting, for an audience of maybe 100 people, so I feel a slight pressure to give a good presentation. And teaching physics is one thing, but explaining your methods and sharing your thoughts about it requires me to really think about what I have been doing for the past three years when teaching, and what I would like to improve.

Besides the “Teaching Physics” masterclass, there are lectures on (almost) every topic within physics, and even some on biophysics etc. The core topics are cosmology, nanomaterials, and laser physics. No particle physics in this list, but the whole Wednesday morning will be dedicated to it, with lectures by Carlo Rubbia, David Gross, and several others. I will be leaving particle physics after my thesis, to pursue a PhD in a more mathematical branch of physics: the conformal bootstrap. So I will use this week also to check out the string theory talks and to meet people from the more mathematical community. Maybe they will teach me some string theory jokes (are there any?), so I’ll fit in better when starting my PhD in September.

Next time you’ll hear from me, I will have arrived at Lindau and then the stories, pictures, funny and interesting quotes will come!

Fotografie: Ronald Blinderman/Nikhef