An Interview with the IAPS President, Cyrus Walther

 Why to join IAPS: ‘The moments when you are afraid of jumping are the moments that you should jump. IAPS will change your life,  one way or another, always.’

For the start of a series of jIAPS interviews, the jIAPS Editor-in-Chief spoke to Cyrus Walther about his memories of IAPS and his role as IAPS President.

After a brief introductory chat, which turned into a tangential discussion on the differences between fire alarm drills in Germany and the UK, the interview got started.

Hi Cyrus, Thank you for taking the time to speak to jIAPS about your experience of being the President of IAPS. 

  • Let’s start with… What are you currently studying?
    I’m on a graduate program at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany. I have extended my course by one year to spend time gaining extra experience abroad. I spent six months recently working on neural networks at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics in Prague.
    Now, I’ve started my Master’s thesis and have switched from working on High Energy Particle Physics Colliders at Atlas, CERN, to being part of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA)  team, working in Astrophysics. I’m spending the next year as part of their team working on neural networks.

  • What’s been your favourite thing about IAPS?
    I have quite an abstract answer to this question: Seeing how so many individuals work together as something which has such a big voice and impact, that is truly the best thing.
    It’s insane how physics students from all around the world magically bond together. They all agree on the same basic understanding. All the opportunities IAPS creates and the chances we create are based on this, it’s the best thing… and IAPS is also quite unique in this. Lots of other degree subjects don’t have a similar international association. We strive together for the best future and join together as one team. 

  • How long have you been in IAPS for?
    My first encounter with IAPS was at the EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) in 2020, so I have just celebrated my 2nd Anniversary. At the EGM in 2020, Munich won the bid to host PLANCKS* 2022, and I became part of the PLANCKS 2022 OC (Organising Committee).  Three or four months later, I was elected as the Events Manager of IAPS. 

  • Why did you decide to apply to become IAPS President?
    IAPS gave so much to me. I learnt so many skills. It was time to invest those skills and give something back. And still, IAPS is doing the same thing again, by me investing my skills and becoming President.  Every day, people throw new problems at me and somehow I figure out how to fix these problems, along with my team. I learn more skills and develop and then I can give that back. That’s what I love about IAPS. When I was wondering whether to apply for President, I asked myself the questions ‘am I suited to this role?’; ‘do I have the skills?’; and ‘what can I give back to IAPS?’. I assessed that, and the answer was yes, I am suited to it; yes, I have the skills; and yes, I can give back to IAPS. Although IAPS is already an amazing organisation, there is always a new horizon. Every time you realise that you are at the highest you aimed for, you can always aim higher.  As I said in my candidacy, the previous two presidents were marvellous – they fostered External Relations and kept the momentum at a high pace. I wanted to use that momentum and continue to grow IAPS. 

  • What are your main aims for IAPS in 2023?
    At this stage, we have completed the first four months of our term as the Executive Committee. We are a third of the way through the year.
    In two sentences, the first step is to maintain what we have already. The second part is looking at how to improve IAPS.

    Maintaining: we shouldn’t lose any opportunities. We should make the best of the resources we already have. This is the first step. The EC (Executive Committee) is currently working on sustainable solutions for many procedures. And my team is working really hard, I can assure you.
    The second part is more complex. Once we have maintained what we already have, we can look further to think of what else we can do to improve IAPS. We should look for more resources and opportunities. We can increase the number of events. We can promote meeting for conferences and growing the return to in-person events after the pandemic and much more.
    I also like to drop in some of the different chats on Discord and the different working groups. I’m curious and like to see what they are doing. I like to see the members engaged, and doing stuff.
    Then there’s working with External Relations to get more resources for everything: what partners can we engage with, what opportunities are out there, how we can increase our voice and have more impact.
    And we are developing. IAPS has already been invited as speakers to events, the latest was the Union of International Associations, which was very interdisciplinary. We were invited so others can learn from us. That is the next step in IAPS’ History. 

  • Can you describe what the IAPS President’s job is like in one sentence?
    I’m trying to think of the shortest way to say it… Guiding my EC to create the best IAPS ever. 

  • What has been the most unexpected task you have had to do as part of IAPS?
    There were a lot of weird things I had to do as part of the PLANCKS 2022 OC.
    Remember, you’re in Germany. Everything is closed on a Sunday. I was given the task to rescue the person who was supposed to get a cup of coffee for Reinhard Genzel (a speaker at PLANCKS 2022). He wanted a cup of coffee… but everything was closed. It turned out that it was a significant issue to fetch a cup of coffee and this OC member had been gone for 30 minutes and hadn’t returned. I was completely puzzled by this question. First, where the hell is this person? Second, who is it? Third, it’s only a cup of coffee for Reinhard Genzel. It was such a strange task…
    So, did you ever find them?
    Yes – I found them, actually in the University. It hadn’t been an easy task. The restaurant was not happy with us having to take the cup outside, through a little bit of rain to the speaker. We had to pay a fee to take the cup with us and then take the cup back again…

  • What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of joining IAPS?
    The moments when you are afraid of jumping are the moments that you should jump. IAPS will change your life, one way or another, always.
    Most of the people I speak to who were concerned about joining IAPS… they didn’t see the opportunity of a lifetime when it came at them.  People are scared of joining – they don’t know if they can handle IAPS, or whether they have the time or if they should actually join… Some of them jumped and had a marvellous time in IAPS, like I did. Some of them did not jump and they never knew what is happening.
    If you are afraid of jumping, then still jump.

  • What can IAPS members look forward to in the coming months?
    What can they look forward to? A lot of amazing stuff. There are three IAPS major events and multiple small events planned. There’s the International Physicists Tournament, held in Paris – everyone should enter a team and we should increase involvement in that. There’s PLANCKS in Milan 12 – 16th May. That is a huge part of IAPS and the OC is working hard for that. Then there’s IAPS’ major flagship event: ICPS 2023. I encourage every one of you to come. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t think we’ll be returning to the Phillipines  soon.
    There are a thousand other things… exchanges organised by NC and LCs and other events. There are online events too. There’ll be a volunteering event – an IAPS Working Group Recruitment Fair – it will be another chance to make the jump easier.
    And IAPS2CERN is back. Planning is in progress for that.
    I’m working through all of the IAPS Working Groups… now we’re on Outreach. We will be involved in the International Day of Light again in May; it’s one of our two main outreach events. The other is the IAPS School Day, which will happen later this year.
    There’ll be partner events too, for example IUGG (the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics) have their general assembly in Berlin in July, which if you are interested in geophysics you can go along to; and IUCr (the International Union of Crystallography) have their congress in Melbourne at the end of August.
    I’m sure there will be more Cooking Day sessions and more members engaged in IAPS. It will be another year of growth, with new faces and new people.
    And of course, we expect a new edition of jIAPS with about a thousand pages, including this interview, if it is accepted for publication.
    To learn more about these activities, follow us on social media, join our Discord, email us… 
  • Thank you Cyrus for your detailed answers and for providing an insight into the life of the President of IAPS!

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*PLANCKS is the Physics League Across Numerous Countries for Kick-ass Students