Studying in Germany at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg
From the quantum world to the galaxies
They make the thinnest wire in the world. It is made of gold and is a million times finer than a human hair. They manipulate the angular momentum or spin of electrons. And thus advance the dream of superfast and powerful quantum computers.
Physicists at the University of Würzburg are participating in the largest machine in the world, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, where they are looking for undiscovered elementary particles. They are researching into new solar cells. Printed on to foil, they are expected to make the production of electricity from sunlight simple and inexpensive. And lots more.
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are working in all kinds of fields – from astrophysics to energy research to the miniature world of nanostructures. Their regular publications in well-known science journals bear witness to the fact that they can hold their own at an international level, too.
And what did Johannes Tran-Gia like best about his Physics degree course? A field trip to the Vulkaneifel European Geopark. “We had to apply various measuring techniques to find out the geological composition of a maar volcano,” the student tells us.
For example, tremors are set off using a sledge hammer and geophysicists can measure the propagation of sonic waves underground using sensors they have inserted into the ground and draw conclusions about the composition of the rock there. “Basically it is the same technique which is used in oil exploration,” says Johannes.
Physicists are also in great demand in medicine
If this all seems rather unspectacular, Johannes did his dissertation in a completely different field: The question he set out to answer was: How well is the heart muscle supplied with blood? Pictures from the MRI scanner helped him in his search.
“At the moment it is a very complex process to find out how much blood flows through a particular area of the heart in a given time,” says Johannes. Doctors would like to know this, however, in order to be able to establish how badly a heart has been damaged after a heart attack, for example, and where scar tissue may have formed. For them it would be ideal to have a perfusion chart showing the degree of damage in different shades of colour. Physicists are working on this.
Professors have a good reputation
Johannes Tran-Gia chose Physics because he enjoyed Maths and Physics at school. And why did he come to Würzburg? “The Physics department offers a broad-based curriculum in all areas of Physics, but it is still not too big,” he says. At the same time the professors have a good reputation and the academic staff are very nice. He also liked the fact that the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy has numerous partnerships with the USA, UK, France and Japan – after all, Johannes says travel is his “main hobby”. No wonder, then, that he seized the opportunity to spend a year in Edinburgh in Scotland to do his MSc there.
There are many career options open to physicists. Johannes realises that, too. He is attracted to working in research, but he can also imagine himself teaching in a school, or working in publishing where he could write about the latest developments in physics.
At the moment, however, he is focusing on his doctorate. He is continuing his research into the circulation of the blood in the heart muscle. Perhaps by the time he has finished it, he will have succeeded in simplifying the technique for measuring blood flow.