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All Felix Lenders needs for his research work is a desk, a computer and perhaps a notepad and pen. Theoretically, he could do his work anywhere in the world. And yet he is generally to be found in his office at the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. “This is where I can share ideas with a whole host of young researchers in different disciplines – which gives my work some fascinating impetus”, he explains.
Since 2013, 29-year-old Felix from the southern German city of Ulm has been doing his PhD in mathematics. His work is concerned with an overlapping area between mathematics and physics. Felix has a good knowledge of both disciplines, as he has degrees in mathematics and physics. “My work focuses on the development of special algorithms designed to help make hybrid vehicles more efficient. The aim is to minimise their energy consumption and emissions”, he explains.
Conducting research into real-life problems
It is precisely this relevance to industrial practice that is so important both to the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing and to Felix Lenders in his research work. This practical orientation was one key reason why he decided to do his PhD in Heidelberg. “Of course, I could also develop algorithms for theoretical problems – for fun, as it were. However, it makes a lot more sense and is more productive to devote oneself to real-life challenges”, believes the PhD student. For the purposes of his PhD, he is therefore collaborating with TLK-Thermo, a spin-off of the Technische Universität (TU) Braunschweig, and is developing algorithms for the company, which supplies software solutions among other things. There are benefits for both parties: while Felix Lenders gains valuable insights into practice, the company is able to find solutions to some of its real-life problems with the help of the young researcher.
Useful exchange and intensive support
Felix knows the city of Heidelberg and its university well – he acquired both of his previous degrees here. In between, he spent one year studying in Toronto. Although many doors were open to Felix after completing his studies, he decided to remain in Heidelberg: because of the high degree of practical orientation at the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing and because of the good support. “I work in two research groups, Simulation and Optimization, and Optimization of Uncertain Systems. While the former is very large, which gives me the chance to talk to many other doctoral students, the second comprises only four PhD students and my direct supervisor is a junior professor. The situation couldn’t really be any more ideal.”
Training at the graduate school
He additionally receives support at the Heidelberg Graduate School of Mathematical and Computational Methods for the Sciences (HGS MathComp). “This gives the PhD programme a structure. There are regular meetings at which one presents one’s findings so far and receives valuable feedback. What is more, subject-related and non-subject-related courses are on offer, such as business English and presentation skills.”
Different career paths for young researchers
Young researchers in Germany can also find good conditions for studying mathematics at many other graduate schools. Through its graduate schools, the German Research Foundation (DFG) is currently supporting 45 excellent and internationally competitive institutions in Germany, all of them academic leaders in their fields. Other institutions offering special PhD programmes also provide young researchers with optimal support and supervision throughout their research work. The following is a selection of graduate schools and other institutions:
- Berlin Mathematical School
- Berlin Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics Leibniz Institute in Forschungsverbund Berlin e. V.
- Bonn International Graduate School in Mathematics
- Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics
- Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing
- Hausdorff Center for Mathematics, a Cluster of Excellence
- Helmholtz Graduate Research School GeoSim
- International Max Planck Research School for Computational Biology and Scientific Computing
- International Max Planck Research School for Moduli Spaces
- International Max Planck Research School for Mathematics in the Sciences
- Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach
- Max Planck Institute for Mathematics
- Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
According to studies like the CHE Ranking, examples of institutions well-known for their excellent support and research in mathematics also include
- Friedrich Schiller University Jena
- Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
- Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
- University of Bonn
- Technische Universität Darmstadt
- Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
- Technical University of Munich
- Technische Universität Chemnitz
Young mathematicians can also gain an insight into applied research in German companies. Mathematics graduates can work in many different areas – for example in sectors such as finance, IT and insurance.
In dialogue with mathematics and IT stars
Meeting the stars in their field can often also prove valuable and informative for young researchers. That’s why Felix Lenders applied – successfully – to take part in the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum that will be taking place in Heidelberg from 18 to 23 September 2016. During the course of the week-long forum, young researchers share their ideas and opinions with world-famous scientists. The different generations of scientists get to know each other intensively during lectures, discussions and joint excursions. Felix Lenders hopes that his participation will be a source of inspiration for his PhD: “At such events the exchange is at a very high level and covers a broad scientific area – which always brings young researchers a good step forward.”
Mathematics in Germany
Are you interested in mathematics research in Germany? The brochure below contains useful information, presented in a clear and service-oriented manner.
Research in Germany - Mathematics (2017, 28 pages)
You are interested to study, pursue your PhD or get cooperation partners in the field of Mathematics in Germany? We invite you to explore the many opportunities available to you in Germany. This brochure provides students, early career researchers and partners from abroad with information to find places of interest and potential cooperation partners in their specific field of Mathematics.Download (PDF, 932 KB)