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“Success breeds success”: math geniuses at Jacobs University Bremen

Benedikt Stock, Abhik Pal and Marco David (from left) from Jacobs University Bremen were awarded the “Special Prize of the Federal President for exceptional work”. Photo: Stiftung Jugend forscht e. V.

June 14, 2018

Mathematics professor, Dr. Dierk Schleicher, was simply “extremely proud” of the two teams he had supervised. The six young math talents from Bremen that he had fostered recently took top positions in the nationwide “Jugend forscht” [Young Researchers] competition. Five of the six participants study mathematics at Jacobs University Bremen, the sixth is a student in an associated mathematics association. “There are many talented people in our class and the placings prove the quality of our education,” says 18-year-old Malte Haßler, one of the participants.

The teams were awarded the “Special Prize of the Federal President for exceptional work” and third place in the field of mathematics/computer science. In addition, both teams received the special prize of the German Mathematicians' Association, although normally only one such prize is awarded. However, the achievements were so convincing that it was decided at the last minute to award two prizes.

Jonas Bayer, Malte Haßler (both Jacobs University) und Simon Dubischar (Kippenberg-Gymnasium Bremen, from left) were awarded a third price at the "Jugend forscht" competition. Photo: Stiftung Jugend forscht e. V.

“To have made progress in the regional and national competition was, in itself, an achievement not to be taken for granted,” says Haßler. The success in the national competition was therefore all the more sweet. “We are trying to build a bridge between promoting young researchers and conducting top research,” Dierk Schleicher describes Jacobs University’s approach. In 2016, he was himself the recipient of one of the highest sums of funding ever awarded to a mathematician by the European Research Council for his research: 2.3 million euros.

The work of the next generation begins with the “Mathematics in Bremen” association, which supports school students. Interesting mathematics is explored together and weekend trips and seminars are held. Schleicher co-founded the association, and is the deputy chairman. Haßler was also involved with it. His studies in mathematics at Jacobs University a year ago was then a natural next step for him. Another reason for his decision was the internationality of Jacobs University and it’s English-medium classes. “I’m planning to go abroad and it will be very useful there.”

The courses at Jacobs University are small. The professors know their students well, the support is individual, questions can be answered immediately, and the professors sometimes visit cultural events organized by the students on campus. And: the talents motivate and inspire each other. For example, all the students in his year participated in an international research project together with some students from the third year. “At Jacobs University, the transition from academic to private life is smooth,” says Malte Haßler. The students also do things together beyond mathematics.

Mathematics professor, Dr. Dierk Schleicher, was simply “extremely proud” of the two teams he had supervised. Photo: Jacobs University

Dierk Schleicher supervised both of the “Jugend forscht” teams. To prepare for the competition, he even invited the Russian mathematician, Professor Dr. Yuri Matiyasevich, an expert in his field, whose work the students at “Jugend forscht” dealt with. He came to Bremen for a whole week to meet them. “Such encounters are, of course, very motivating” says Malte. The Modern Mathematics Summer Schools, which Schleicher organizes every two years on the Jacobs University campus , have also impressed many.

“Success breeds success”, emphasizes Dierk Schleicher. Former graduates of the program are also on the road to success. Jacobs alumnus Jessica Fintzen, who received her doctorate at Harvard and is now teaching in the US, has just been awarded the doctoral prize of the German National Academic Foundation. She was also awarded another prize by the Association of Women in Mathematics at the beginning of the year for her work in the United States.

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