On your wavelength

Interactions: Stefanie Reichert

Stefanie worked as an experimental particle physicist at CERN before moving to Berlin, where she just started as Associated Editor at Nature Physics.

What made you want to be a physicist? 

In fact, I’ve tried everything to avoid physics when I was a teenager. In high school, I chose to learn Latin and then French as this would allow me to attend only two hours of physics per week. I grew up in Germany, and we had to do a one-week internship in 10th grade. Back then, I wanted to become a pathologist and hence I applied at the hospital nearby. As I wasn’t sure if they’d take me on, I looked for something else and then stumbled across books about the universe my parents gave me as a child. Turned out there was a Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (MPIA) where I applied as well. Long story short: I got to do internships in both pathology and at MPIA but the latter blew me away: we got to observe the sun, count galaxies, learned about Rosetta, played with liquid nitrogen and then I was hooked! Funnily enough, I interned in an astronomy and a particle physics working group at university, and guess what?

If you weren’t a physicist, what would you like to be (and why)?

After the internship, becoming a pathologist was out of the question (too uneventful for my taste). I guess I would sell books now and force recommendations on people. Maybe along with running a café and roasting my own coffee.

Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with — and why?

With Oscar Wilde, as I love his impeccable sense of humour and wit. If you haven’t read ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, you are clearly missing out.

Which is the development that you would really like to see in the next 10 years?

I believe that in science we are a leading example for promoting peace, equality and anti-racism. But I do feel there’s more we can achieve, and I would like to see a greater diversity within our community, including more women in science and also increased opportunities for scientists or students studying science all around the globe.

What’s your favourite (quasi-)particle?

I have a background in experimental particle physics, and because some tensions between experimental observations and theory, the so-called Standard Model of Particle Physics, have emerged over the past few years in the flavour sector, I would go for the hypothetical leptoquark, which is a candidate for explaining those anomalies. Plus, those could mediate a decay I was searching for with colleagues from the LHCb experiment. Basically, a leptoquark can turn a quark into a lepton (e.g. an electron) and vice versa.

What is your non-scientifically accurate guilty pleasure (could be film/series/book)?

I love Star Wars, and my favourite is ‘The Return of the Jedi’. When the new movies started coming out, I was so excited – there’s nothing like watching the Millenium Falcon jump into hyperspace and then there are so many awesome female characters!


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