When Hanna Zbroszczyk came to Darmstadt in the summer of 2019, she brought with her 7 students from Warsaw University of Technology (WUT) for a 3-month internship with GET_INvolved with FAIR. One year later and despite pandemic obstacles, she arrived with a second group of enthusiastic students. Her goal: To establish a big FAIR research group at WUT. The team leader of both the CBM and the HADES group at WUT sat down with us for an interview.
Hanna, how did you manage to travel with a group of Polish students from Warsaw to Darmstadt in the middle of a pandemic?
It was extremely difficult because we had to get all these agreements, permissions and so on. But I managed to convince the authorities at my university that we will be very careful and follow all the rules. Finally, the rector agreed to let us come to Darmstadt.
How did it happen that you regularly get your students to join the GET_Involved programme?
It is an absolutely amazing, wonderful opportunity to join FAIR in this very early stage, because we will still have 4 to 5 years before FAIR will start. I want to use this time to establish a group of young scientists at WUT who will then be ready to be fully involved in CBM, because I am interested in CBM research. I also joined the HADES experiment because I realised that many people from CBM are now active in HADES. So at the moment, I have two wonderful groups of young and dynamic students, about seven people involved in HADES, and the same number of people in CBM, and I hope that the groups will grow every year. With the help of the GET_Involved programme, once a year some of my students can come to GSI and FAIR for a couple of weeks to work on special projects.
Why did you start to build up the new groups?
During my studies at WUT, when I was still undecided about which field of physics to pursue, I met wonderful, enthusiastic people – young scientists and Ph.D. students – and I followed them. That’s how I came to nuclear physics and to the STAR experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven. Eventually, I built up a STAR research group at WUT, and the young students that started years ago are now about to finish their Ph.D’s, which makes me very proud. However, after 20 years in total, STAR will finish its activities in a couple of years, and we will finish our projects. So I took the opportunity to make a new start with CBM.
Why do your students follow you?
My personal dream is to do something that is extremely important for the community and also for the world. I would like to create new physics, something that the next generation will learn about in some regular physics classes. I am really passionate about physics, and I think young people see this, and I think I am a good example for them. And this really works, because we started with a really high number of students and half of them continued, which is a lot.
You are not only a very successful and active scientist, you also have a family with two kids – do you still sleep?
From time to time, if my children are not hungry any more (laughs). My first daughter was born just after I finished my Ph.D., and the following years were the most difficult time in my life, because I had to split my time between being a mother and wife, and a scientist. Now, they are 12 and 8 years old and more and more independent. Having a family was the second dream I always have had. So I decided a long, long time ago that work is extremely important for me, as it is my passion. But I think I have managed to combine science and family, and I am very happy about this.
Hanna, thank you very much for the interview.
Prof. Hanna Zbroszczyk (40) studied physics and Warsaw University of Technology (WUT) and received a Ph.D. from WUT and one from the University of Nantes. Since she was a child she has been interested in how things work, and in physics she was able to combine this kind of curiosity with her passion for mathematics and computing. She is convinced that the second important thing in science – apart from following your passion – is to follow people you want to work with. (mbe)