PhD candidate Robin Verstraten on EW Magazine's 30 under 30
Most promising Dutch youngsters of the year
Utrecht PhD candidate Robin Verstraten has been selected by EW Magazine for the prestigious 30 under 30 list. The list includes up-and-coming Dutch talents that the jury believes will help shape the future of the Netherlands. Verstraten is a theoretical physicist doing PhD research in quantum mechanics.
The areas of expertise of the people on the 30 under 30 list fall into a variety of categories, such as governance & politics, science, and media. Other names mentioned include tennis player Tallon Griekspoor, radio DJ Bram Krikke, and politicians Julian Bushoff and Harmen Krul. In previous years International Booker Prize winner Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, internationally renowned YouTuber Nikki de Jager, and co-founder of the political party Volt Nederland Reinier van Lanschot were among the ones who made it on the list.
Verstraten is honored to have been selected for the list, but finds it unreal at the same time: "There are famous people on it, like Bram Krikke. And I'm among them! I find it hard to believe, but try to think: well, it must be true if that's how the jury see it. Of course, I hope that I will indeed prove to be promising, and achieve interesting things in the future."
Verstraten has a background in mathematics and physics, and is currently doing his PhD at the Utrecht Institute for Theoretical Physics. Even though his school career was not easy at all (he was diagnosed with dyslexia and Asperger's Sydrome), he has impressive scientific publications to his name. For example, his Master's thesis, for which he also received the UU student prize, was published in Physical Review B, a leading journal in physics. In his thesis, he showed that it is theoretically possible to develop time glass: A material that changes its physical state from solid to liquid and back, without changes in the environment.
His doctoral research includes studying friction in materials for quantum systems, such as quantum computers.
I love working with models to solve a big mathematical problem
What he likes most about his field of research? "I love working with models to figure out a big mathematical problem. It's like solving a riddle while breaking it down into several small riddles. It causes a lot of frustration along the way, which makes it even more worth it once you discover the answer. Especially when you consider that you are probably the first person in the world to understand the problem."
Speaking of riddles: they keep him occupied in his spare time, too. And with success. He is a speed cuber, and in 2019 he solved a pyraminx (pyramid-shaped Rubik's cube) in 2.70 seconds, the Dutch record. In August, he will compete in the speed cubing world championships in South Korea. "Last time I finished tenth, but this time I will probably finish lower," he says. "Because of my work, I practice about twenty minutes a day, which is not nearly enough to beat young people who have much more time to prepare."