January 14, 2021 / SaSä

Interview with Alexander Schlaich

At the beginning of January, Alexander Schlaich joined SimTech as Junior Research Group Leader. For more information check also the news about him. In order to get to know him better, please find below a short interview with him.

Maybe you can introduce yourself briefly. Where do you come from? What have you done so far?

I was actually born in Stuttgart, where I went to school and later studied Physics at the University of Stuttgart. After receiving my Diploma in 2011, I moved to Berlin to do my doctorate at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2012. In 2017, I then started a PostDoc position in Grenoble/France with Benoit Coasne before in summer 2020 I moved back to Stuttgart to work at the Institute for Computational Physics with Christian Holm.

What are your focuses and in which direction have you done research so far?

I mainly use atomistic computer simulations and statistical physics to investigate the complex behavior of fluids in nano-confinement. For example, we are interested in the fundamental forces between biological membranes that allow cells to structure into physiological compartments. These forces can only be understood by taking into account structural details of water between the surfaces. Another example involves the transport in porous media, where smallest pores of the size of about one molecule are used e.g. for filtration, however the dynamics in such small pores becomes very slow. Therefore, one tries to combine different pore sizes for optimal efficiency. What all of these questions have in common is that we analyze microscopic properties and try to develop effective descriptions on a continuum scale that allow to predict the behavior on larger scales. To verify our work we closely collaborate with experiments, which on the other hand come up with interesting questions to ask us.

What are you plans and goals as a junior research group leader?

I hope to establish a group that is well connected between chemical physics, physical chemistry, materials science, biology etc. I’ll try to raise some third party funding for interesting projects I have in mind and hope to actively contribute in teaching, both within SimTech but also within other courses of studies.

Which will be your main topics?

The focus of my research within SimTech shall be in scale-bridging from molecular to pore-scale and larger properties. Specifically I want to work on the interplay between electrostatic effects in strong confinement with transport. A detailed understanding of such effects is important e.g. for the development of more efficient or more environment-friendly batteries. I will also continue working on membrane interactions, where I want to study mechanical properties and protein inclusions. This combination is of special relevance as recently it has become possible to embed proteins that can in a controlled fashion be turned on and off to deform the membranes. This equilibrium vs. non-equilibrium behavior promises to yield new insights into membrane physics.

What do you expect from the cooperation with and within SimTech?

SimTech offers the perfect integration for my research as there are actually many projects working on smaller length scales including quantum mechanical effects as well as on larger, continuum scales. Especially, I hope to benefit from the data-driven approaches in SimTech which might allow to extract new insights from the simulation data.

Why did you decide on the University of Stuttgart and SimTech?

SimTech itself is highly interdisciplinary involving researches from disciplines like mechanical engineering, mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer science etc. and thus is of high appeal for continuing my interdisciplinary research. Additionally, University the of Stuttgart hosts many strong labs that I want to connect to. Last, Stuttgart as a scientific region is of high interest also due to the close neighborhood of the Fraunhofer and Max Planck institutes.

Do you have any open positions to fill?

I’m always looking for interested and motivated bachelor or master students and project internships. In the next months I prepare some third funding proposals and thus hope to offer more positions soon.

Have you ever been to Stuttgart? Do you know the city?

As I did not follow the changes in Stuttgart for approximately 10 years now I’m excited to (re-) discover Stuttgart and the region as soon as the pandemic situation allows again.

What are you looking forward to?

Interactions with many other researches, especially with other early career scientists, but also with possible experimental collaborators.

What did you want to become as a kid?

Firefighter.

Quickly asked

Movie or book?
Movie, except for vacation.
Mountains or beach? Mountains.
Champagne or sparkling water? Both!
Watch sports or do sports? Do sports!
Car or bike? Car, although I try to bike more often.
Cat or dog? Dog.
Cinema or concert? Cinema.
Early riser or night owl? Neither of both.

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