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Dr Elke Pahl

Dr. Rer. nat. (summa cum laude) Dipl. Chem.

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Senior Lecturer


I obtained a Diploma (comparable to Master) in Chemistry and Zwischenprüfung in Mathematics (comparable to BSc) at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. I then went on to get a Dr. rer nat, summa cum laude (PhD) in Theoretical Chemistry on the impact of nuclear dynamics on core-excitation spectra at the University of Heidelberg. Postdoctoral research took me from Heidelberg to the University of Washington in Seattle with a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service. After a break to devote time to the eduction of my two children, I took on half-time post-doctoral positions at the Max-Planck Institute for Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany and the Centre for Theoretical Chemistry and Physics at Massey Universtiy, Auckland campus. In 2010, I was appointed as a lecturer for physics at Massey University, Auckland. In 2019, I moved to the University of Auckland to take up a senior lecturer position here.

Research | Current

My research spans topics in Computational Physics and Chemistry and Solid State Physics with an emphasis on computational modelling. In particular, I am interested in the ab initio description of ground state properties and phase transitions like melting in nanoclusters and extended systems under ambient and extreme conditions (high pressure or strong magnetic fields) and understanding the emergence of bulk properties through the study of atom clusters. I have expertise in the fields of importance-sampling Monte-Carlo and molecular dynamics methods, genetic algorithms, high-pressure chemistry and physics, description of atoms in high magnetic fields, electronic structure calculations of molecules and the theory of lattice sums. Additionally, I recently started to work on method development extending the Full-Configuration-Interaction Quantum Monte-Carlo, FCIQMC, method to bosonic system. FCIQMC is a promising method to solve the full CI problem by exploring Hilbert space in a stochastic way.

Teaching | Current

PHYSICS 334 Statistical Mechanics and Condensed Matter Physics (Cond. Mat. part)

PHYSICS 742 Advanced Statistical Mechanics and Condensed Matter Physics (Cond. Mat. part)

PHYSICS 121 (second semester) Advancing Physics 2

Postgraduate supervision

  • PhD supervisor: Edison Florez Hincapie (since May 2017)

  • PhD co-supervisor: Mingrui Yang (since March 2018); Antony Burrows (since February 2017); Odile Smits (January 2016 - 2019),  Lukas Trombach (December 2014 - 2019);  Jayson Cosme (April 2017 – Sept 2017); Lukas Wirz  (2012-2015)

  • Honours thesis supervisor: Antony Burrows (2016)


  • Since 2018: Associated Investigator, MacDiarmid Institute

  • 2017 Promotion to Senior Lecturer, range 2

  • 2017/2018 Member of Norwegian Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), Oslo on project “Molecules in Extreme Environments” 

  • 2017 Promotion to Senior Lecturer, range 2 at Massey University, Auckland

  • 2017 Fellowship at Max-Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, Germany

  • 2014 PI on Marsden Grant  'Putting the Squeeze on Molecules' (awarded NZ$750,000 for three years; 3/2015 - 3/2018)

  • 2014 Promotion to Senior Lecturer at Massey University, Auckland

  • 2014 Massey University Women’s Award Grant 

  • 2010 Dumont d ́Urville fellowship together with Prof. P. Schwerdtfeger (Massey University) and Dr. F. Calvo (Lyon, France)

  • 2007 Dumont d ́Urville fellowship together with Prof. P. Schwerdtfeger (Massey University) and Dr. F. Calvo (Lyon, France)

  • 2000-2002 Research Fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service for research at University of Washington, Seattle, U.S.A

  • 1998 PhD awarded with summa cum laude (high distinction)

  • 1997 Dr. Sophie-Bernthsen Student Excellence Award

  • 1994-1996 Fellowship at the Graduiertenkolleg, Universität Heidelberg, Germany for PhD studies

  • 1990/1991 ERASMUS/ECTS Academic Exchange Scholarship of the E.U. for study at Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain

Areas of expertise

  • Computer simulations of phase transitions
  • Matter in extreme environments - high pressure and strong magnetic fields
  • Parallel-tempering Monte Carlo method
  • Cohesive Energy calculations - lattice sums
  • Computation of highly accurate potential energy surfaces
  • Full Configuration Interaction Quantum Monte Carlo (for bosonic systems) 

Contact details

Office hours

Thursday, 11 am, or by appointment

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 303 - Bldg 303
Level 6, Room 618
New Zealand

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