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Eckhard Wallis - Deutsches Museum
1. Briefly describe your current position, research focus, and your role within MCQST.
As a curatorial assistant at the Deutsches Museum, I have probably one of the more exotic jobs in MCQST – even though I am technically just a simple “wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter”, like so many of you. In my position I am working on a new exhibition covering a theme at the heart of quantum science and technology: the physics of light and matter and its history in the 20th century.
2. What does a typical work day look like for you?
In curatorial work, there really is no such thing as a typical work day. The first thing I usually do after clocking in is checking my schedule for the day: Creating an exhibition is a team sport, which means that regular meetings are an important part of my work. My role on the curatorial side is to define the contents of the exhibition: What are its take-home-messages and how can we transmit them through the display of historical artifacts and interactive demonstrations? In practice this means that I may spend some days reading historical literature or researching in our archives in order to find out the backstory of some obscure laboratory device from the 1910s, while on others I may be working on the concept for an interactive, exciting and safe laser experiment. As these ideas and concepts pile up and fill longer and longer lists, it’s the job of my wonderful colleagues – architects, mechanics, sculptors, and many more! – to turn them into real and tangible things like floor plans, design studies or prototypes. Being a part of this creative process is a truly rewarding experience.
Going through century-old letters in our archives or studying mysterious objects in our collections is probably as close to the Indiana Jones experience as I could ever get.
3. Why did you choose your field of research/what keeps you motivated?
What really makes my job special to me, is that I get to work at the intersection of physics, history and society. As a trained physicist with a master’s degree and specialized in quantum optics, I enjoy the bird’s eye view of the field: Our goal is to present a broad account of the physics of light and matter and to show how fields like spectroscopy, laser physics or the trapping of particles are interrelated. The historical component of my work is just as fascinating: going through century-old letters in our archives or studying mysterious objects in our collections is probably as close to the Indiana Jones experience as I could ever get. Last but not least, I really enjoy the challenge of making quantum physics accessible to a large and diverse audience and to show why quantum physics matters to our society as a whole – even to those who will never be passionate about lasers or quantum entanglement.