Quantum physics on stage: an interview with Christoph Sünderhauf

What does looking for an apartment in Munich and quantum scrambling have in common? Christoph Sünderhauf, PhD Student in MCQST, answered this on stage and won first place at the Q-Science Slam in Stuttgart earlier this year.

Christoph Sünderhauf wins first place at the Q-Science Slam

What lies underneath all things? What does actually hold our world together? Why are black holes the fastest quantum scrambles in the universe? These are just some of the questions that Christoph Sünderhauf investigates during his PhD in the Theory Division at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics. Christoph won first place at the Q-Science Slam 2020 organized by the Integrated Quantum Science and Technology (IQst) Research Center. On the stage of the Theaterhaus Stuttgart, he took the audience on a journey through quantum physics filled with humor and insightful pop culture anecdotes.

We reached out to Christoph to ask about his passion for quantum physics and what lies behind his inspiration for the science slam talk.


What is your favorite aspect about being a scientist? Did you always know you wanted to follow this path?

Already at an early age, I discovered my predilection for maths and logical thinking. Now, in physics, I can follow this and other interests of mine such as programming and presenting.

What sparked your interest for research? Why quantum theory?

When I first learned about quantum theory during my undergraduate, I was stunned by the beautiful underlying mathematical theory. It also fascinated me that it is an accurate description of the inner workings of nature at small length scales, although objects behave very differently from our everyday intuition.

Tell us about yourself outside of science. How do you spend your time when outside "of the lab"?

I feel lucky to be able to ride my bicycle to the office on a daily basis. Munich's proximity to the mountains is great for skiing and hiking. A long-term private endeavor during my time as a PhD student researcher has been learning Spanish.

What is you motivation for communicating science?

An important part of research is traveling to conferences or visiting seminars and presenting your new findings. While I have always enjoyed giving such scientific presentations, it can be notoriously difficult to answer to family or friends about your doctoral research projects. After hearing about the science slam opportunity, I decided to take on the challenge and try to share my passion with the public. I must say, I was rather enthralled by the limelight in the theatre and the audience's response.

Tell us a bit about your science slam talk. What inspired the chosen analogy?

It is a difficult task to find good analogies. They must be simple enough to appeal to people from all walks of life. Even so, they should not oversimplify the underlying complex phenomena and lead to wrong pictures in the audience's minds. In a science slam, you must strike a balance such that you feel comfortable with the scientific accuracy while managing to engage and entertain.

My main analogy was inspired by a talk at MPQ of the American physicist John Preskill. He likened scrambled quantum information to a book in which each page individually looks blank. At this point, I would like to thank the science slam's organizer IQST Stuttgart, which put together a valuable preparation workshop that greatly improved my slam's quality.

One last thing, did you find an apartment in Munich?

No — I live in a suburb ;-)


Thank you Christoph for the insightful interview.


You can watch the full video (in German) below or on the IQST YouTube channel.
Photo: Max Kovalenko/IQST

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