Jacobs students win international University Physics Competition

February 3, 2015
Jacobs students win international University Physics Competition


Three Jacobs University students have just been announced as the winners of the international University Physics Competition which took place last November. Gautam Rai from India, Sven Wasmus and Maximilian Schallwig from Germany won the gold medal with their paper on the stability of orbits of circumbinary planets. They competed against 92 other teams from Asia, Europe and North America.

A total of 131 teams consisting of three team members each participated in the international undergraduate competition. The participants came from universities from Asia, Europe and North America including some of the top ranked universities such as Harvard University, Yale University and National University of Singapore.

Competitors had to choose between two tasks: either analyzing the stability of planetary orbits around binary star systems or determining the probability distribution of the position of the water droplets from a water fountain. The three Jacobs University students along with 92 other teams picked the challenge of analyzing the stability of orbits of circumbinary planets. Their approach concentrated on formulating the differential equation describing the motion of the three bodies and performing a numerical integration up to 1000 years for different initial velocities and positions of the planet.

The results of the winning Jacobs University team showed the correlation between the eccentricity of the star system and the stability of the orbit. The higher the eccentricity of the star system, the larger the smallest stable orbit is. In addition, the team found out that stable orbits around the given system were possible at a distance and velocity comparable with Earth’s distance from the sun and its velocity around it.

“We were eagerly waiting for the results which have only just been announced. It’s a great feeling to have won the gold medal. We knew we had a competent paper, but to be adjudged the best among so many is truly amazing,” says Gautam Rai about their experience. The team participated in the University Physics Competition 2014 to practically apply their theoretical skills learned in class as part of their studies in Physics at Jacobs University.

Peter Schupp, Professor of Physics, adds: “I am incredibly happy for my students. They had a lot of fun participating in the contest. Actually winning it is amazing, given the competition. It exemplifies the exceptional talent and commitment of our students here at Jacobs University.“

More info: University Physics Competition