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Community Profile: Thomas Schwetz

Name: Thomas Schwetz

Current position: Faculty

Affiliation: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Field of research: Theoretical astroparticle physics, neutrinos, dark matter


What is your career trajectory to date?

PhD at Univ. of Vienna; postdocs at TU Munich, SISSA Trieste, CERN; research position at MPIK Heidelberg; associate professor at Stockholm Univ.; since 2015 professor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

What is dark matter? What is the origin of neutrino mass?

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

It is amazing to have a job which is just about finding out how the Universe works. As a theoretical physicists there is lots of freedom in what to work on. This is something I like, but at the same time it comes with high responsability and puts big pressure on you. Challenges change as the career develops and one grows older - but the job is never boring and every week comes with different tasks than the previous one.

In your career so far, at what point were you the most excited, and what were you excited about?

The discovery of neutrino oscillations. Being part of this breakthrough, and being able to contribute with my own research was an amazing experience.

What new skills would you like to learn in the next year?

Time management.

What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

Cosmology should see finite neutrino masses very soon. If it does not, we need to understand something better in cosmology. Both cases are very exciting. I am most excited about advances we cannot think of right now. Particle physics seems to wait for a breakthrough, but currently nobody knows when and what.

What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?

I think community building is important in our field. Science is a global, collaborative effort, even if we tend to work in small groups in theoretical physics. Such a network can help to exchange ideas and make researchers know each other.

What’s your favorite food?

High quality food (which does not necessarily mean expensive). Usually I prefer to have local food, genuine in the place you are. I'll eat Sushi in Japan, Pallea in Valencia, Marillenknödel in Austria (definitely not the other way round). Food has a lot to do with environement: in the Trieste area are places called Osmiza, where you get ham and local wine, which just taste fantastic sitting there in the garden next to the grapes; if I would bring the same ham and wine to my home place in Germany, all the magic is gone.

Have you lived in a different European country than you do now? If so, would you like to tell us something about it, e.g. a fond memory or something you found surprising?

Yes. Living in different countries in my opinion is a great experience - part of our job (should have mentioned it above, to the question what I like about being a scientisit). I lived in 6 different European countries, from the Mediterranean to Skandinavia. Each one has its own culture and habits which I try to learn and absorb when living there. Some I like, some I don't like in each case. But it's always a very enriching experience which I do not want to miss. Changing perspective on certain aspects of life in different cultures helps understand what is real and what is just convention.

How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

Going for a walk with my dog. Biking home from work. Enjoy our garden.

Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share?

Jazz music. Playing saxophone and piano.

If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

Jazz musician (maybe - but that's a tough job though...)

What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

Find out what dark matter is. Get a more complete picture of cosmology. (LCDM is beautiful, but it has a number of loose ends which would be great to understand better.) Understand neutrinos better and how they are integrated in the Standard Model.


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