Jazz, sport & quantum physics: First virtual cluster retreat of ct.qmat


A harmonica sound signals the last two minutes of a talk, during the lunch break the participants switch to a living room concert, and during the coffee break a physiotherapist keeps all participants moving: the first conference of the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter exhausted all possibilities of the digital event world.  
On 10 and 11 March 2021, the first virtual "Cluster Retreat" took place – with almost 200 participants. Nine talk sessions, two poster sessions, a fireplace chat, and a pub quiz brought the members of the Würzburg–Dresden cluster up to date on the latest research and networked them more closely. 
"The Corona pandemic has prevented us from exchanging ideas in person and in one place, as we scientists are used to. However, we are more than pleased with the large number and outstanding quality of the contributions. We are already leading the way in Germany in the field of topological quantum materials. Our first cluster-internal conference after the Corona Year 2020 clearly showed us that we are also massively catching up in topological photonics," describes Prof. Matthias Vojta, spokesperson of the Dresden branch of the cluster.
While digital information is commonly encoded by the flow of electrons in semiconductors, an alternative research approach of the cluster is based on the use of photons, i.e., light, for this purpose. Photonics promises novel and exciting features and functionalities. "When we started ct.qmat in 2019, our research on photonics was still a tender seedling. In the meantime, the tiny particles of light have really taken off – in Würzburg and in Dresden," adds Prof. Ralph Claessen, spokesperson of the Würzburg branch of the cluster.
What positively surprised both speakers about the online format was that the poster sessions almost felt like a real conference. The prize for the best scientific poster went to the young scientist Sabrina Palazzese di Basilio from the Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf, who presented her work on "Exotic magnetism in Nd3Fe3Sb7".
The assessment of the online format of the first cluster conference is positive. But the outlook remains clear: "In the end, a virtual conference will never be able to compete with a face-to-face event. The best ideas come up during the breaks, when people are queuing for coffee and talking informally. In the virtual world, I usually only meet with those I know – and tend to use the breaks to tidy up my desk," says Claessen. 


Date & Facts

22 Mar 2021



© Kerstin Brankatschk

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