10 Questions with Ann-Katrin Michel
Ann-Katrin Michel, 29, from Germany is a Ph.D. student at the RWTH Aachen University in the Germany.
She is working on the switching of plasmonic nanostructure’s resonances in the infrared spectral range. The aim is to allow for a broad applicability in the field of ultra-sensitive spectroscopy and label-free sensing.
Ann-Katrin is a participant of the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting which is dedicated to the field of physics in 2016.
Enjoy the interview with Ann-Katrin and get inspired:
- What inspired you to pursue a career in physics / STEM?
I never felt that I deliberately decided to follow this career. I always loved numbers, bringing order into things and data and I have always loved to learn new things, get to know the reason, why things are as they are…
- Who are your role models?
I actually don’t have any scientific role model. I feel inspired by athletes, such as the climber Alexander Huber. However, my dad has always been my greatest support, who made me feel like I can achieve whatever I want to, if I just work hard enough for it and believe in myself.
- How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I got my Master’s degree in Materials Science at the RWTH Aachen University, supported by the Bildungsfonds scholarship (“Deutschlandstipendium”) and spent some months abroad at Berkeley, CA, USA (Lawrence Berkeley National Labs) to work on my Master’s thesis. This stay was financially supported by the RWTH Research Ambassador Program. I returned to the RWTH Aachen University for my PhD in Experimental Physics (Nanooptics). During this time I spent a short time at the Stanford University, CA, USA for a collaboration. This stay was financially supported by the “Sonderforschungsbereich 917”. Last year, I worked for some months in the industry as a project leader for R&D, but I missed academic research. Due to a scholarship – RWTH Aachen Graduate Opportunities Program – I was able to come back to the university. Thus, I’m finishing my PhD thesis now. To find my personal academic career path, I participate in the mentoring program “TANDEMplus” for women in science and engineering. In the future, I hope that my mentor will help me to overcome obstacles and to guide me to a position as a research group leader. In the moment, I am looking for a postdoc position and I would be happy to receive some guidance regarding how to choose a suited position and research group, which allows me to widen my scientific and personal horizon.
- What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
During a collaboration with a postdoc at Stanford I knew from my hometown university, we only had a couple of days, we spent together at Stanford to conduct all of our experiments. All the planning was done beforehand vial e-mail. This worked out so great, that we were able to publish these results in ACS Photonics and this paper got highlighted in Nature Photonics. This project was driven by enthusiasm and really good planning.
- What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
I think getting accepted at the National Labs in Berkeley, finishing a marathon in 3 h 30 min and getting selected as participant for the meeting in Lindau have been the things, which made me feeling really proud of myself.
- What is a “day in the life” of Ann-Katrin like?
Right now, I just write as much as possible since I need to hand in my PhD thesis by the end of July. Besides I regularly look for postdoc positions I can apply to.
- What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
I would love to become a research group leader and to be allowed to work with interested, highly motivated people from all over the world.
- What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I am a sports enthusiast. I love running (I ran a marathon twice up to now.), mountaineering, climbing, riding my bike, but also just to work out … doing sit-ups, burpees, pull-ups. Whenever I can find time I cook and try out new recipes.
- What advice do you have for other women interested in physics / STEM?
I think young women should just go out there and enjoy their fascination for physics.
- In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physics research?
I expect that the LHC will lead to new fundamental ideas on the understanding of physical laws.
What should be done to increase the number of female profs of physics?
Our society has to overcome gender-related boundaries. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion – none of these aspects should play a role for decisions regarding relations or careers. I am afraid that there is a very long way to go. Young girls and women need to be encouraged to follow their dreams and to pursue their goals – whatever they want to do and whereever they want to go.