University of South Carolina

Young professor making waves in physics

By Marcie Nelson, 

Most scientists look for predictable patterns to explain natural phenomena, but Matthias Schindler is more interested in the rare instances where nature rebels against those patterns.

“As people walk along the seashore they see all kinds of shells. Nature dictates that for a given type, almost all of the shells grow in a certain clockwise/counterclockwise pattern.  But there is that rare case that grows in a mirror image of its fellows.  I am interested in that one, the one that looks different,” says Schindler.

A native of Germany, Schindler is an assistant professor in USC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. His research on Hadronic Parity Violations showcases how scientists are attempting to use theoretical principles in physics to understand and explain naturally occurring anomalies.

Although he’s new to USC, he’s already making a name for himself in the physics world. Schindler recently received two prestigious awards highlighting his achievements.  One is a highly competitive Early Career Award from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which provides promising young scientists $750,000 ($150,000 per year) to support postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. Schindler also received the first Few-Body Physics Award for his work in theoretical physics.

Schindler said his motivation to explore the esoteric world of theoretical physics is simple.

“Curiosity is my motivation, the driving force behind my work; It bothers me if I don’t know how something works,” says Schindler.  After earning his PhD at the University of Mainz in Germany, that same curiosity led him to pursue a career abroad.

Schindler was drawn to the United States and to USC by the abundance of physics opportunities as well as the prospect of working with equally motivated colleagues.  USC offered Schindler the option to pursue not only advanced theoretical research, but also the opportunity to teach students, something he has always wanted to do.

Schindler says that his friends and family in Germany provide an overwhelming support system that is crucial to his success as a physicist and researcher.  His parents have always told him to do whatever makes him happy and successful, the same message he passes on to his students.

Varsha Kulkarni, Interim Chair of USC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said that excellence in both research and teaching is critical to the program’s continued success.

“Prof. Matthias Schindler is one of our best young faculty members and we are very proud of his achievements. We are fortunate to have attracted excellent young physicists such as Prof. Schindler, and hope to continue recruiting additional promising scientists in the coming years,” says Kulkarni.

The living and learning environment here at USC contributed to his success and despite his award-winning accomplishments, Schindler says he tries to remain true to himself.

“Maybe a physics professor is just a normal person who watches TV, reads a book or plays video games. There is this perception out there that physicists are this ‘mad genius’ mold of people and it’s simply not true,” says Schindler.  “I’m just a guy asking a lot of questions about the world.”

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Posted: 06/12/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 06/14/13 @ 10:20 AM | Permalink