30 under 30: A Graphene Researcher and Competitive Equestrian

Meet Andre Wilmes, 23, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
Luxembourg physicist Andre Wilmes

Courtesy Andre Wilmes

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the 12th in a series of 30.

Name: Andre Wilmes
Age: 23
Born: Luxembourg
Nationality: Luxembourg

Current position: Research assistant and Ph.D. student, Imperial College London, Department of Aeronautics
Education: Master in aeronautical engineering, Imperial College London

What is your field of research?
My research focuses on developing multiscale- and multiphysics-compatible modeling methods for simulating the structural response and fracture behavior of graphene-based compounds and devices. Currently a reformulated Molecular Dynamics Finite Element Method (MDFEM) is used to investigate the potential and the design which a new class of graphene-based composite materials would possess (as opposed to carbon fiber–based composite materials).

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
From an early age, I have been fascinated by science and mathematics. While I truly enjoy the pure sciences and the formalisms of elegant mathematics, I consider the ultimate challenge to lie in the efficient application of new science in ingenious implementations.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A position in an advanced research and development lab, be it academic, governmental or industry-based, would be a dream position. Demonstrating, for instance, proof of concept designs employing state-of-the-art science progress would constitute a thrilling and rewarding task. My personal interest is in furthering numerical modeling methods to a level where these are able to work in parallel with, if not ahead of, experimental work. Hence proof-of-concept designs could be better optimized prior to synthesis or manufacture, leading to considerable time and cost reductions.

Who are your scientific heroes?
I do not have a particular scientific hero. In general I carry great admiration for any researcher who has made a long-lasting imprint on a wide breath of disciplines. For instance, I admire many mathematicians and physicists such as the likes of Euler, Poincaré, Maxwell or Schrödinger. Although due to my research interest, one of my favorite current researchers is Sir Konstantin Novoselov.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of research would you conduct?
Given unlimited resources, several research areas come to mind, of which energy production, transmission and storage seem most crucial. Firstly, I would support all of the current efforts to further accelerate the development of commercially available fusion power. Secondly, research towards a new generation of significantly more efficient, compact batteries would attract my attention.

What activities outside of physics do you most enjoy?
I am a passionate horse rider, having competed across Europe for over 10 years in show-jumping, dressage and mostly my favorite discipline: eventing. I came to play a bit of polo at the Imperial College Riding and Polo Club, which I chaired for two years. In 2008 I came second in the U.K. student riding dressage championships (BUCS). Albeit recently having retired my own eventing horse, I will represent Luxembourg once more in the upcoming 2012 World University Equestrian Championships in Aachen, Germany.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
I consider three invaluable opportunities that the Lindau meetings offer for any young, passionate researcher. First and foremost is the chance to interact with Nobel Prize laureates, which is inherently exciting, rewarding and stimulating for anyone involved in research. Secondly, the meetings connect like-minded young people from a variety of backgrounds, which may lead to synergies for future collaborative research. Thirdly, from the possibility to interact with the attendees and listen to the Nobel laureates’ scientific presentations, I inevitably expect new ideas to arise for my own work.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
Two Nobelists caught my special attention. Firstly, I am interested in meeting Prof. Dr. Walter Kohn, whose work is fundamental to density functional theory. The latter is potentially a future direction of my work. Equivalently, I am looking forward to meeting Prof. Dr. Sir Harold Kroto, because fullerenes and fullerene-derived compounds constitute a fundamental building block of my current work.

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11. Simone Hamerla
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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13. Vinamrita Singh


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