Women in Energy: Katrin Heitmann
Katrin Heitmann holds a joint staff position in the High Energy Physics and Mathematics & Computer Science Divisions at Argonne. She is also a senior member of the Computation Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. Heitmann studied physics at Technical University Dortmund in Germany. She received her diploma in 1996 and her Doctor of Science in 2000 working in nonequilibrium quantum field theory. In the fall of 2000, she joined the Particle Theory Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a Director’s Funded Postdoctoral Fellow. After being a member of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at Los Alamos for a short time, she moved to the Space Science Division at Los Alamos as a staff member. During her time at Los Alamos, Heitmann’s research focus moved into the field of physical cosmology and, in particular, large-scale simulations and modeling of the universe. In 2011, she became a staff member at Argonne.
What do you do?
I am working in cosmology, trying to understand what our universe is made of and how it evolved over time. The distribution of galaxies in the sky can tell us a lot about these questions and currently I am working on the largest supercomputers in the world to simulate the evolution of the structures in the universe we observe with very large telescopes.
What is the best part of your job?
Working with enthusiastic people to understand some really big questions is one great part of my job; learning new things all the time is another one.
When did you first consider pursuing a STEM degree?
Ever since I was a little kid I loved mathematics and science. I played with my first physics experimental toolbox at home when I was 10, but it became pretty clear later that I was more interested in theoretical work. When I had to decide in my second to last year of high school what to do, I sat in on lectures at universities — with my sister in history lectures and with my brother in mathematics and physics — and in the end I was most impressed by the theoretical physics lectures and knew that would be a great path to take.
Does your job require travel? If so, where is the most unique/interesting place you’ve visited?
My job requires a lot of travel, such as going to conferences and workshops to exchange new ideas and learn where the field is going. Recently, I went to Japan to visit the Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo. Not only was the meeting I attended very interesting, I very much enjoyed exploring Tokyo while I was there.
What would you share with a student who wishes to pursue a career in your field?
Do what you love to do — if you enjoy what you do you will accomplish much. Sometimes it will be hard work, but the reward in the end will be worth it. Having a job that you enjoy and looking forward to every day is very important for living.