Toomas Plank to continue as Director of the Institute of Physics

The Council of the Institute of Physics at the University of Tartu confirmed the reappointment of the current director, Associate Professor Toomas Plank, for a new term during the regular directorial election held on November 8, 2023.

There were two candidates for the position, Toomas Plank and Associate Professor Siim Pikker. The Council reinstated Toomas Plank as the director.

Toomas Plank's research career focuses on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, modeling gas discharge processes, detecting electronegative impurities using corona discharge-based detectors, e-learning, and the methodology of using computer-based learning programs. He is also a member of the Physics Institute's plasma physics laboratory.

Plasmafüüsika ja arvutitehnika kaasprofessor Toomas Plank
Plasmafüüsika ja arvutitehnika kaasprofessor Toomas Plank (author: erakogu)

Before the council meeting, a debate between the directorial candidates took place, highlighting the need to maintain a high standard of physics education, emphasizing the phrase "very good." The Institute of Physics is the only Estonian state research institute providing high-level physics education at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Issues such as the need to update research equipment and enhance its efficiency were raised, recognizing the importance of modern equipment for experimental physics.

Toomas Plank emphasized the importance of supportive decision-making in leadership, acknowledging the autonomy of researchers in determining their research topics. Financial matters, including salary increases for teaching activities and diversifying research funding beyond Estonia, were also discussed. Collaboration with businesses, selling various services, and offering short courses based on the institute's competencies were considered as separate topics.

The visibility of physics as a research field and the institute in society, as well as the attractiveness of physics education among higher education students, were addressed. Plank highlighted the correlation between rising living standards and a decline in the popularity of more challenging fields of education.

Toomas Plank also discussed the institute's budget and the strategic development plan, advocating for a more balanced distribution of revenue based on the institute's activities. He emphasized the need to diversify funding sources, including support from European Union funds. Collaboration with businesses and the development of spin-off entrepreneurship projects were seen as significant opportunities.

Toomas Plank has been serving as the director of the Institute of Physics since 2018 and was re-elected for his final three-year term. His new term begins on January 1, 2024, and extends until the end of 2026.

The Institute of Physics at the University of Tartu is part of the university's faculty of natural and exact sciences. Its main responsibilities include education, research, and development in the fields of physics and materials science, making it a leading center in Estonia at all levels of higher education. The institute also promotes physics cultural lifestyle and scientific worldviews in society.

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