From 5 to 8 May, about 150 young physics enthusiasts met in Munich on the occasion of PLANCKS 2022 - defying all pandemic uncertainties in advance. Additionally to that, about 100 participants were involved joining virtually the hybrid programme from afar as well as observers, who accompanied the programme to get to know the event. PLANCKS is the acronym for Physics League Across Numerous Countries for Kick-Ass Students and denominates the final round of a yearly performed, international team competition for physics students on the field of theoretical physics, whose 9th edition has now taken place in Germany as member state of the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS). The teams has qualified before via national preliminaries. Next to the competition as core of the schedule, an extensive framework programme was offered to the participants to present them Munich and Germany with their scientific and cultural diversity. Many activities were available on site and remotely. That holds especially for the competition exam, which made up a big challenge.
The programme kick-off was by the Opening Ceremony on the 5 May, during which DPG Vice President Lutz Schröter directed greetings to the participants. Then, the patron of the event, Harald Lesch, gave a talk on the power of physics presenting an overview of this science discipline as a very useful and powerful mean. This contribution was followed by a guest lecture of the Munich quantum physicist Ignacio Cirac who reported on the topic of quantum computing. After that, a poster session took place offering to the participants the occasion to present their own research and initiate the networking among each other. The first day ended with a German evening, during which the participants were acquainted amongst other things with the German cuisine.
The 6th of May was not yet dedicated to the actual competition, but served primarily to present Munich and German physics. Most of the programme was happening on the TU Munich campus in Garching on that day. In the morning, five parallel laboratory visits took place, among which the participants were divided. The Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ), the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), the Walther Meissner Institute for Low Temperature Research (WMI), the Walter Schottky Institute (WSI) and the Leibniz Computing Centre (LRZ) were the destinations. In the afternoon, the head of the IPP, Sibylle Günter, provided information on the basics and current status of plasma and nuclear fusion research. The day's scientific programme was rounded off by workshops on a variety of topics, such as mental health, scientific visualisations and climate models.
Saturday finally began with the competition. After a short briefing of the participants by the PLANCKS jury, which was largely made up of physics PhD students from Germany, the four-hour written exam took place in the main building of LMU Munich. Ten tricky problems from various areas of theoretical physics had to be solved. Each team had its own room with a blackboard so that the team members could discuss their solutions. At the same time, the online participants also worked on the tasks, but they wrote the exam in their home countries under the supervision of a local confidant. Meanwhile, the observers took part in observer workshops, where they were able to deal with organisational questions about PLANCKS, but also with sustainability issues. In the early afternoon, the local participants had the opportunity to get to know the city during a city rally and at the same time recover from the challenging morning. The online participants did the latter during an online cooking show, where they cooked together a typical German dish, "Semmelknödel" (bread dumplings) with creamed vegetables. In the late afternoon, a third guest lecture took place, with Adriana Pálffy-Buß from the University of Würzburg speaking about X-ray quantum optics and its application in the analysis of atomic nuclei. Finally, at the Conference Dinner in the evening, intensive networking between the attendees took place once again.
The last day of the event began with the Problem Panel, where the jury presented the solutions to the tasks and was available to answer questions. Afterwards, the last guest speaker, Nobel Prize laureate Reinhard Genzel from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, arrived and reported on the decades-long efforts to find out more about the massive object in the centre of the Milky Way. Together with jury president Alexander Osterkorn, he finally announced the most successful teams. The British team "Dark Fermi Gang 2.0", consisting of Ophelia Sommer, Luca Muscarella, Flavio Salvati and Mattia Varrone, won with a clear lead in points. The best German team, "Oachkatzlschwoaf", with members Titus Bornträger (University of Erlangen), Jonathan Gräfe and Max Schneider (both TU Dresden) and Samuel Jupiter Bamrungbhuet (TU Berlin), followed directly in second place. Third place went to the equally British team "The Fences", made up of Eftime Andrei-Horatiu, Sebastian Leontica, Radu Moga and Cristian Voinea. The second German team, "KAESE", was also quite successful and reached the eighth place. Afterwards, the participants were invited to stay for an additional, optional day, which included further lab tours and a visit to the German Museum.
PLANCKS 2022 marked a milestone from several perspectives. From the point of view of the IAPS, it was a very important event, because it was actually the organisation's first face-to-face event since the beginning of the pandemic - the last international event at which young physics enthusiasts could meet and network in person was actually the International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS) in Cologne in August 2019. The joy that these international meetings are finally possible again could be clearly felt by everyone present. PLANCKS was also particularly significant for the young DPG. For the first time, an edition of PLANCKS was held in Germany. At the same time, it was one of the largest events ever organised by the young DPG. Accordingly, a lot of experience was gained, especially since it was also possible to manage the two self-set goals of a hybrid programme and extensive CO2 neutrality. Last but not least, the participants were also very satisfied with PLANCKS 2022, as many positive feedbacks confirm. One Mexican participant emphasised how enthusiastic he was about the event because it offered great diversity, especially numerous opportunities to get in touch with people from different backgrounds.
This successful event in Munich strengthens the hope that attendance events - especially transnational ones - will become the norm again and that the circumstances of the last two pandemic years have finally been overcome. In addition, a lot of experience has been gained, not only with regard to the implementation of a hybrid large-scale event, butalso with regard to sustainability aspects - experience that will also be useful for future events.