|Professor Andreas Heinrich, world-leading researcher in quantum measurements and lover of physics, was awarded the Joesph F. Keithley Award in March 2018. Smiling next to his highly sophisticated probe instruments, he shared his life story in physics. Photo by Park Jae-won.
Introducing Professor Andreas Heinrich
As a world-leading researcher in the field of quantum measurements, Professor Andreas Heinrich has lived his whole life in physics. After working for 18 years in IBM’s research division, he became a distinguished professor of Ewha Womans University’s Department of Physics in 2016, and started the IBS Center for Quantum Nanoscience in January 2017. He is also renowned for his film “A Boy and His Atoms,” that received the Cannes Lions award at the International Festival of Creativity, in 2013.
The Achievements of Professor Heinrich in Receiving the Joesph F. Keithley Award
Because of his continued commitment and in-depth research in the field of physics, in March 2018 he was awarded the Joesph F. Keithley Award, which is presented annually to physicists who have contributed to the development of measurement techniques or equipment influential to the physics community. Professor Heinrich was awarded for the design and construction of a series of highly sophisticated probe instruments that proved that Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) could be applicable to be used as a storage medium. This also included the development of inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy at the single atom and single spin limit. It is believed that this development will lead to future breakthroughs in the science of measurement. Ewha Voice had an interview with Professor Heinrich, not simply as a physics award-winner but also as a physics-loving student who is continuously researching and studying to discover the field of physics.
What got you into physics?
I was always interested in finding out how things work. Starting at an early age, I would enjoy taking things apart. Even though I usually was not able to put them back together, I learned in that process that everything is made of smaller pieces, sort of like a puzzle, which eventually lead to the basics of physics.
What were some difficulties in constructing the probe instruments?
It is extremely challenging to build advanced scientific tools. Constructing scientific tools is a fantastic combination of a scientific vision, engineering, and most importantly, persistence. It often takes years to finish such a task and there are various problems of different fields that need to be solved along the way. This is actually what was the trickiest for me while constructing the probe instrument. It usually required a lot of teamwork and it was crucial for me to ask for help from many experts in various fields. However, when it was finally working, it was amazing to be able to perform experiments that no one else in the world could.
Because you have studied physics for a long time, there must have been some ups and downs in your life.
Once I started working in a lab on actual scientific research, I could never be stopped. I would often wake up early in the morning and go to work when it was still dark – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Of course, there were many downs in my life as well; experiments did not work everytime, machines broke down sometimes, and not all people were decent. It is a human endeavor after all, but it always helped me to try to understand how the world works on the scale of single atoms.
Do you have any last words for the students of Ewha Womans University?
Everything that is written in textbooks is old and already well-established. The fun of studying is to learn how to figure out the unanswered questions of this world. What is good about Ewha Womans University is that they provide a lot of opportunities for women, especially in fields such as science that are not female-oriented. I want students to seize this chance and take advantage of the many opportunities outside of the classroom to change the systems of the fields of study that tend to be male-oriented.