Stephanie Matern


Image by Kristin Arnardottir, 01.02.19

  • BORN 1989Munich, Germany
  • WORKED Cologne, Germany; Toronto, Canada; St Andrews, Scotland
  • HONOURS B.Sc and M.Sc from University of Cologne, Germany


Artistic Connections

Through the outreach program SHINE I became aware of Minerva Scientifica.
The idea of translating science into music was a new to me and sounded like a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the work with the pupils, especially the discussion about how to connect the arts and science.


Title:  Dynamics in Open Systems (Ripples on a Lake)
Composed by: Music Students from VIEWFORTH HIGH SCHOOL, Kirkcaldy
Written in: January 2019
For: Players from  Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society and singers from electric voice theatre (NB we don’t have all the live recordings so some are created from digital sample)
First Performed: Kirkcaldy Old Kirk, Feb 22nd, 2019 as part of “ECHOES FAE FIFE” by ELECTRIC VOICE THEATRE

This is a suite of 4 pieces inspired by the work of Stephanie Matern.  Her research is on dynamics in open systems (ripples in a lake).

Dynamics in Open Systems (Ripples on a Lake) 1
Commotion in the Calm by Sean Hamilton for clarinet, horn in F, violin and cello

The music starts off very calm, you feel as if you are sailing on a peaceful lake. Then suddenly the calm lake is hit with commotion and organised madness. Ripples form, creating a satisfying beautiful pattern. The lake is frantic and wild.  After the commotion and mania, the ripples fade out and the river becomes still and tranquil again. Peaceful. Calm.

Dynamics in Open Systems (Ripples on a Lake) 2
Drop In The Loch by Erin O’Connor for Clarinet, Tuba, violin & cello (digital samples mix)

When two magnets are facing opposite each other one will move and the other one will stay fixed in one spot. When this happens the magnets create ripples in the water. This also works with music. My music helps to convey this as it is calm and then a sudden splash, creating ripples….

Dynamics in Open Systems (Ripples on a Lake) 3
Dreamy Droplets by Sophie Easson for violins, cellos & 2 solo voices

Before a droplet hits the water its still, peaceful but when it does hit, ripples occur causing spirals of force to appear. I went with the spirals more so than the chaos that happens so in this piece you will hear some repetition that symbolises the circular movements of the ripples. Trills add the chaotic effect and you will hear different sections of time and movement.

Dynamics in Open Systems (Ripples on a Lake) 4
RESEARCHING RIPPLES by Demi Smart for horn in F, Trumpet & Tuba

Before the water starts to ripple, it is calm which is how the music starts off. Then when the ripples hit it the music changes, gets faster, louder and more  ‘hectic’. Over time the music fades out and gradually returns to the calm water, to resemble how the ripples fade out.

Stephanie at work with her composers at Viewforth High School with her colleagues from St Andrews


After school (and a gap year), when I was thinking about what to study, I quickly decided on physics as I could not think of anything else that sounded more interesting to me. I enrolled in the physics program and completed my Bachelor and Master degree. Doing an internship in a consultant company did not convince me to give up on the whole research idea, so I went back to physics and came to Scotland for my PhD.


PhD student
My research field is condensed matter physics. I am a theoretical physicist (I do not need to worry about breaking pieces of expensive equipment) and I tackle my problems with pen and paper (and sometimes a computer).

Teaching tutorials for the undergraduate courses is a nice (often welcomed) break from research.

Waitress, checkout chick and various other little jobs
I needed some money to spend on traveling around.

Scientific Achievements

In my research project I study the dynamics of quantum systems, so I try to answer the question how a system changes with time. If there is a disruption in the system, it wants to get back into its original configuration, a bit like ripples on a lake after throwing in a pebble that get fainter and fainter after a while. For a short time the system still remembers its original configuration and we can observe interesting effects.

Did You Know?

Sometimes it is helpful or necessary or just fun to get some distance between me and my research, so I run or climb or hike or eat.


Honestly, I find some inspiration in the entertaining reactions as well as the support of people on social media (#distractinglysexy, WomeninSTEM, #Strumia). I really cannot just name one person, but I am a big fan of the collective effort.

And I am looking forward to the point where we do not need to have the gender debate anymore.