Martina Gschwendtner, doctoral student at TUM:

Out for lunch with Wolfgang Ketterle

Martina Gschwendtner at Lake Constance
Many useful hints to take home: TUM doctoral student Martina Gschwendtner at the Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lake Constance. (Photo: private)
Nobel Prize winners are quite straightforward, down to earth, and approachable – at least those Martina Gschwendtner just met. The TUM doctoral student recently attended the meeting of Physics Nobel Prize winners, where she gained many great experiences.

Martina, you were one of 580 young scientists in Lindau. How was the meeting of the Nobel Prize winners?

It was one of the most impressive conferences I've ever been to – a very special occasion. The entire week was perfectly organized, and the program was very varied and interesting. It started at 7 o'clock in the morning and ended late in the evening.

How is the meeting scheduled?

In the morning, you can take part in a Morning Workout Session at the lake – and on other days, there are events such as the "Science Breakfast", including an interesting podium discussion with Nobel Prize winners. Throughout the day, there are lectures and interactive formats in which more specific scientific topics are discussed with the individual winners. In the evenings, there are great dinners. This year, one of the evenings was hosted by South Africa – with traditional food. The evening ended late with African music, and you could find one or the other Nobel Prize winners on the dancefloor.

Whom of the Nobel Prize winners did you meet?

I met Professor Wolfgang Ketterle for a "Laureate Lunch". He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics. Also, I was particularly pleased that I got to know the third female Nobel Prize winner in the field of Physics, Donna Strickland, personally. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Laser Physics. She is a truly fascinating woman – from Canada, by the way. She shared many personal views, for example about the moment she learned that she won the Nobel Prize.

And what were the award winners like, personally?

Most of them are very uncomplicated, down to earth, and approachable. The discussions were all very interesting and inspiring, and I soon realized that the careers and paths of life of researchers are not always straightforward or perfectly planned.

What are you taking from the meeting?

Memories and insights from interesting conversations, also with the many other young scientists who were able to visit the meeting – and many recommendations.

For example?

For example from Donna Strickland, who told us that it can be helpful to believe that you are always in the right place, right where you are ...

Would you like to become a Nobel Prize winner?

Many would like that! The great part is that people listen to you if you win a Nobel Prize. This really gives you the opportunity to make a difference. Teaching is very important to me, for instance, and so I thought it was great that Nobel Prize winner Professor Dan Shechtman also showed great interest in the continuous improvement of school systems and the university system as a whole. We talked about that for quite a while.

(Interview: Sabrina Czechofsky)

Martina Gschwendtner (27) studied Mathematics at TUM and completed her Master's degree in Philosophy of Science and Technology. She has been working on her doctoral degree in the field of Quantum Computing at the Department of Mathematical Physics for two and a half years. Martina is happy to see what the future will bring, and she wants to take heed to another piece of advice she got at the meeting of the Nobel Prize winners: "Be open to all opportunities!".

More information:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings


Martina Gschwendtner at Lake Constance
Many useful hints to take home: TUM doctoral student Martina Gschwendtner at the Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lake Constance. (Photo: private)
 Martina Gschwendtner and Prof. Donna Strickland
An inspiring encounter: Martina Gschwendtner and Prof. Donna Strickland (left), who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. (Photo: private)