It is 2 years now that Paul Bürkner joined SimTech as an Independant Junior Research Group Leader. This is a good time to take stock and have a look into the future.
You've been with SimTech for last two years now. What were your expectations and how have they been met?
I was very excited to work in such an interdisciplinary environment and to see how much this interdisciplinarity is actually lived in the research itself. I was and still am impressed how SimTech has brought together so many people from diverse research backgrounds and how many new collaborations it has sparked.
What has been the most important learning in the last 2 years?
How difficult realistic physics simulations actually are.
One topic you wanted to work on was the interface between interpretable statistical models and machine learning models. Have you done that and how far along is your research there?
We have made good progress there in the past two years. But there are still many challenges ahead until we have a full ML-based Bayesian model building expert ready for production.
What scientific question are you currently working on?
Too many :-D One area that I am particularly excited about at the moment is simulation-based inference, which is notoriously difficult given the sparsity of data and the complexity of the required simulators.
You have built a good team of PhD students. How does the collaboration work and how is it going?
I think the collaboration with my PhD students is going well and I hope that, if you asked them, they would say the same. We have a regular meeting once per week and are in close contact via slack otherwise with spontaneous meetings whenever sensible. I am very happy with all the members of my group and I very much enjoy working with them.
How did you perceive the research environment in Stuttgart in the last two years?
Friendly, open-minded, and supportive.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of your position as Independent Junior Research Group Leader?
Advantages: Pure focus on research with minimal admin or teaching responsibilities as well as very good funding.
Disadvantages: Fixed term contract without a tenure-track option.
What recommendation would you give to someone applying for such a position?
No useful ones I guess apart from recommending you to apply if you are still unsure. Because those are really nice positions where you can grow as a researcher and group leader while fully focusing on your research.
How would you describe working with and in SimTech over the past two years?
It has been a pleasure working at SimTech. I have met so many nice people and I have learned so much during that time.
You started at the University of Stuttgart in times of Corona. How has Corona influenced you in your work but also personally?
I have gotten much more appreciation for the freedom that we have in academia and for the job safety we had during those difficult times.
What will the next two years be like for you? What are your plans?
I will become full professor at the University of Dortmund, which I am very excited about. Not sure what will await me exactly, but it will probably involve a lot of exciting new research projects and collaborations.
How do you like Stuttgart? Do you feel at home here or do you commute regularly?
I really like it! I feel at home and would have loved to live here longer. Perhaps I will come back some day.
If you want to find out what Paul Bürkner is doing in SimTech check out our latest research video.