I was born in Heidelberg on Friday 30th of June in 1995. My parents must have been very excited since I was their first child although this excitement quickly turned into agony as I was a screamer-baby. At family gatherings I will often hear the story of my parents leaving the hair-dryer on full power right next to me since this was one of the few ways to keep me sleeping. My brother was born around 2 years after me but fortunately for my parents, he was much quieter.
I can only partly remember the time in kindergarten. It was here, when I first became close friends with one of the neighbor kids – a friendship which would last until the end of the “Grundschule” (middle school). Overall, I only have good memories from this time, however one day my mum was approached by one of the nursery teachers, explaining that her child had problems, concentrating and staying focused. My mother was in shock by these words but knew this statement could not be true.
“Just give him some toy bricks and he will be happily building stuff for the next few hours.”
My mom knew me too well. Even now when I think about this story, I get filled with a sense of amusement and enjoyment. After all, I still am the kid who loves to build and tinker; a character trait which I must have gotten from my dad.
The first few years of school went by without me ever being too concerned about it. When I moved up to the “Gymnasium” (high school), I realized that I needed to learn in order to pass my Latin class. This subject would turn out to be some kind of love-hate relationship as I was the one choosing it for its intriguing historic reasons (I loved Roman and Greek mythology) but the language itself would not fit easily inside my head.
If I am being honest, I was a very lazy student. When puberty finally caught me, other interests like Sports and Computer Games had higher priorities than studying for classes. I was not the best student in class but was always passing along just fine with lots of interest for different topics but never truly committed to any particular field.
I graduated high school in 2013 with average grades and lots of motivation to study, but no concrete idea in which subject. I had some philosophy classes and originally thought about going into this direction but I also really enjoyed Math, Physics and Chemistry. The choice was partly influenced by friends of me who wanted to start studying Physics.
But what really resonated with me was the idea to understand nature on a more fundamental level.
My start at University was not going very well. Since I did not feel the need to study during my time in school, I lacked practice and so I failed Linear Algebra I in the first semester. However, I was not the only one as this year seemed to have been truly horrific in terms of students managing to pass the exam. So I tried again, two semesters later and actually took the (not mandatory) follow-up course Linear Algebra II. The university provided math courses which were densely compacted for the sake of covering much material without the details, in which a mathematician would have liked to study them. This would suit experimental physicists and most of the theoreticians well but I decided that I now liked Mathematics and so I took many additional courses and extended my studies. I immensely enjoyed Algebraic Topology I+II and Differential Topology I+II. On the Physics side, I was very interested in the theoretical concepts of General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory.
My Bachelor thesis was written in a specialized subtopic of Quantum Field Theory and done in a hurry as many theses probably are. I was glad, to close this chapter and I am still to this day proud to have understood a very complex topic without much previous training in it. However, I am not proud on the overall quality of the produced results.
The Masters course of Physics is usually the place where everyone finds a specialized topic, but I was still undecided and so I picked really distinct topics: experimental particle physics, theoretical statistical physics and general relativity.
In the middle of my Master course, I decided to move In together with my long-term girlfriend and so we looked for a new home in Freiburg. My Masters was almost complete, still missing the final master thesis, when Covid-19 hit and complicated many of the processes. I was lucky enough and was adopted by a young and enthusiastic mathematician who had also previously been trained as a physicist and only later converted to mathematics.
The project, I was working on, combined General Relativity and Thermodynamics to calculate the mass and radius of a star governed by certain thermodynamic effects. I derived the necessary equations, formulated a mathematical proof for the existence of a solution and carried out numerical methods to explore the parameter space of the problem. While the results might not be interesting to anyone, I myself was very proud to have been able to combine many different methods to the same problem.
At the end of my Masters thesis, I was already looking around for possible doctoral positions. At first I thought about going further towards a mathematical route but would have also considered Theoretical Physics. But then I stumbled over an interesting job offer on the website of the University of Freiburg looking for a physicist to do “Computational Biology”. The offer seemed to fit very well to me and after a few interviews, I ended up getting the position. This was a rather surprising turn for my family and friends but I have not regretted this choice so far.