Markus Ternes Appointed Heisenberg Professor at RWTH


The nanoscientist will hold a joint appointment at RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich.

  Professor Markus Ternes Forschungszentrum Jülich/Limbach Nanoscientist Markus Ternes has been awarded a Heisenberg professorship with a joint appointment at RWTH and Forschungszentrum Jülich.

In the world of individual atoms and molecules, the laws of the macroscopic world we know from our everyday lives apply to a limited extent only. Markus Ternes, who investigates this ‘nano world,’ in which quantum effects play a decisive role, has now been appointed as a Heisenberg Professor at RWTH Aachen University and at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The researcher will head the Spin Engineering Group at RWTH’s Chair of Experimental Physics and, in addition, conduct research at the Functional Nanostructures at Surfaces division of the Peter Grünberg Institute at Forschungszentrum Jülich, one of the largest interdisciplinary research centers in Europe.

Platforms for Complex Quantum Simulations

In his research, Markus Ternes investigates the structure and dynamics of atomic and molecular model systems. His primary research tools include scanning tunneling microscopes and atomic force microscopes, which are equipped with ultra-fine measuring tips. These probes make it possible for Mr. Ternes to measure – and even to manipulate – tiny electrical currents and mechanical forces between atoms and molecules. The overall objective is to identify platforms that are suitable for complex quantum simulations. With his focus on spin-based engineering, the physicist ideally complements the research activities at Forschungszentrum Jülich and at RWTH, institutions that both provide excellent infrastructures for his research.

A good understanding of quantum-mechanical processes is a prerequisite for developing powerful quantum computer systems. While conventional computers have nearly reached the limits of computing power, quantum effects provide a promising basis for increasing the power of future computers. Research in this area is highly significant for other areas and applications as well.

Among other goals, the nanosciences seek to understand quantum-mechanical interactions, which can be harnessed for the development of new materials and used to address problems that cannot be solved using traditional methods. The aim is to tackle such problems with the help of quantum simulators and, at a later stage, with programmable quantum computers.

Research Career

Prior to his appointment as a Heisenberg professor, the Duisburg-born physicist was a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart. In this role, he investigated how correlations between electrons in a metal and magnetic atoms and molecules are formed and how they can be manipulated.

Markus Ternes completed his doctorate on the topic of scanning tunneling spectroscopy at the single atom scale at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Subsequently, as a postdoctoral fellow at IBM’s Almaden Research Lab in San José, California, he contributed pioneering work on the determination and controlled manipulation of magnetic properties of individual surface atoms. The young researcher used his wide-ranging expertise to decipher nanostructures and quantum-mechanical processes.

Heisenberg Professorship

The Heisenberg Professorship, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), makes it possible for outstanding early-career researchers to establish their own research field at a German university. Furthermore, the program supports them in preparing for leadership roles in academia.