Lotte Mertens (UvA-IoP) will receive the Lorentz Graduation Award for Theoretical Physics, awarded annually by the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. In her prize-winning master’s thesis, Mertens studied the relation between quantum mechanics at the microscopic level and the measurements we make of it at much larger scales.
The Lorentz Graduation Award for Theoretical Physics is one of the Young Talent Awards that the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities annually awards for students in science and technology. Mertens performed her research in the Condensed Matter Theory group under the supervision of Jasper van Wezel.
From fiction to science
The subject of quantum mechanics is often viewed as a rather mysterious one – which is perhaps why science fiction writers like to use the topic in their stories so much. One of the main reasons for the mystery surrounding the theory is that quantum mechanics describes the smallest particles that we know of, very far removed from the world of our everyday experience. This becomes a problem in particular when we try to relate the outcomes of measurements – which take place in our large scale laboratories – to quantities that play a role at the quantum scale.
In her thesis Spontaneous Unitary Violations and Effective Non-linearity in Relation to Quantum State Reduction, Mertens investigates this so-called ‘measurement problem’. She proposes a new model that derives the probabilities that describe quantum measurements, instead of assuming these probabilities from the start. In this way, she manages to relate the physics at the very small scales to what we can actually observe.
Mertens, who is continuing her career in physcs as a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam and the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Dresden, is proud to have received this Young Talent Award. She says that winning the award was partly due to her decision to tackle an interesting but risky research question, and hopes to inspire other people, and especially other women, to take similar risks and to follow their passion in science.
The online award ceremony for the Young Talent Awards will take place on November 30th. The ceremony can be watched on a live stream on the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities website.