Zum Hauptinhalt springen

Prof. Dr. Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino

UP Reconnect Guest: Prof. Dr. Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino

Visiting from: Brazil

Home Institution: Federal University of the ABC

Host at the UP: Prof. Dr. Tim Dietrich

Institute at the University of Potsdam: Institute of Physics and Astronomy

Time of the visit: June - August 2023

Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino is professor at the Federal University of the ABC in Santo André/ Brazil, where he works in the areas of Mathematical Physics, Applied Mathematics and Physics of Elementary Particles and Fields. Prof. Dr. Tim Dietrich from the University of Potsdam invited him to be our first Research Alumni in the UP Reconnect Program. In this interview Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino tells us about his decision to come to Germany, they give insights from their work in the Theoretical Astrophysics group in Potsdam and what advantages there are coming to UP with the UP Reconnect Program.

Max, we are very happy to welcome you as our first Research Alumni in the UP Reconnect program! And thank you Prof. Tim Dietrich for initiating this! Can you shortly tell us how did you two meet?

Max: My first encounter with Tim was in Jena ten years ago, when he was doing his PhD and I was studying Numerical Relativity. We continued to stay in touch and I met him again here in Potsdam in 2017. I stayed two or three months at the Max Planck Institute, and last year I visited the University of Potsdam for six months, unfortunately during winter in Covid times. It was not the best time for interacting with the people, but it was very nice to focus on our research. Because there were some projects left behind, we decided to come here this year to finish them and to start new projects.

How did it come that you choose to come to Germany?

Back then, I was trying to change subjects, because I was doing something that was not very interesting for the scientific community. So I decided to change to gravitational waves and related studies. I looked in the internet, read articles about groups and how relevant was the research that they were doing – and there were good groups here in Germany. Also, I always wanted to come here, because Germany is so organized and it is an amazing country. I always say that, it is not because of the interview (laughs). So I was very happy and certain that I could learn something in Germany.

What are specific research collaborations or projects that you are involved in during your time here? Can you share any preliminary findings or insights from your work so far?

Max: The Theoretical Astrophysics group is very productive and I am trying to start a group also in Brazil, where I am professor. We do many projects together and they are all related to binary neutron star emersions or binary neutron star black hole mergers.

Tim: We are interested in the behaviour of matter at extremely high densities. Extremely high densities means that you take for example a sugar cube, which has the same mass as 100.000 times the Eiffel tower. These high densities are probed inside neutron stars and now we are simulating them on the computer trying to understand what happens when they collide. The nice thing is, we not just simulate them, but we can compare to observations and then can understand how fundamental particles behave and how they change under these densities. In this regard, we found that if you have a different, strange kind of particles in the centre, things behave differently. Which sounds maybe very abstract but is really fundamental physics.

Max: The only part in the universe where we can find these extreme densities is inside neutron stars. So that is why neutron stars are like our lab, where we try to find how matter behaves at these very extreme densities. And these are supported by observational measurements.

Are there any specific advantages for you being here to working on the project?

Max: For me it is really, really important being here, because in Brazil I am regularly occupied with teaching duties and bureaucratic obligations. You need to focus to do research, so it’s very important for me to come here and have two or three months just to focus on the projects. And I really feel that during this time I push forward a lot in these projects. Also Tim is an excellent researcher and we have the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics near, so it is the perfect spot.

Tim: And for the group it is also very good. In particular Master and PhD students benefit not just from me explaining stuff but having someone who explains it in a different way. I appreciate a lot that he is here. Moreover, it makes the group interaction better and it is much more productive than doing the exchange via email. We all have other things to do, but here you feel responsible every day to do the stuff – so it is very, very useful. And one of the PhD students just finished his article, which we grabbed up also because Max was here, and he is also helping in another article we are working on. All in all there is much more interaction and it is much faster than otherwise.

Tim and Max
Foto: Stefanie Peter
Prof. Tim Dietrich and Prof. Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino at the Campus Golm.

Max, you did your bachelor’s degree in Chile, your PhD in Brazil first, and have been teaching there as a professor since2006. Now you are doing research in Germany – how do the lifestyles differ and how has living in different countries shaped you?

It is very different. I was born in Peru and when I finished school, I went to Chile to study. After finishing my studies in Chile, I searched for universities to do my PhD, so this is how I ended in Brazil. How things are different? —there are many things that are different!

Related to work, it is better organized in Germany and that makes things easier, you can focus more on your work. There is more money for research in Germany and more supercomputers. In Brazil, the federal company for oil “Petrobras” has also good supercomputers, but it is harder to obtain resources from them because they are mainly focused in oil projects.

And on a day-by-day basis, there are a lot of differences (laughs). For example, in South America, we are more spontaneous, and here people like to plan things and they stick to them.

Tim, in your application for the UP Reconnect Program you mentioned you would like to strengthen the cooperation between both universities, are there any news?

We already had one PhD student, that we both supervised who will actually start as postdoctoral fellow here. And our next step would be to see whether we could have some common lecture courses to make it easier for students to exchange also even on the Master level. For that, we already have contacted the Regional Advisor for University Partnerships at the University of Potsdam to see how we can strengthen the connection between our institutes and universities.

Max, what were some of the challenges you faced as a researcher and how did you overcome them?

Little by little. We always have very big challenges, and if you want to reach this big challenge directly, you will not get it, you will never reach your final goal. In our research we try to model nature, and to model nature as exact as possible is complicated.  So, you go little by little, and that’s why we need students, master students, PhD students – because together we go step by step to reach this final goal.

Are there any specific things you have to think about coming here as an international researcher?

Max: Potsdam is an amazing city, the contact with nature, the lakes, the woods. You have a lot of interesting things to do, and if you want something more “wild”, of course Berlin is nearby. For me the most complicated thing was to find a place to live. It is very difficult.

Tim: We luckily managed for Max to stay in the Guesthouse of the Max Planck Institute. This only works because we are also affiliated with the Max Plank Institute, otherwise for just university members it would be more difficult.

Max: Apart from that, the food is completely different, the beer is better (laughs). I like Potsdam very much and I hope to be here also next year.

Tim: And also the PhD students asked whether you will come, they also appreciate this.

What advice would you give to other international researchers who are considering a short-term visit to the UP?

Max: It is one thousand percent my recommendation to come here! Tim has built a very productive, nice and competitive group in these few years that he has been here at the UP. This visit, the time spent at the University of Potsdam, and the pleasant city of Potsdam were great, I am returning to Brazil with many important scientific results and also new friends.


Thank you Prof. Dr. Maximiliano Ujevic Tonino and Prof. Dr. Tim Dietrich for the pleasant interview!