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HLF Review 2016

Participants 5 out of

Participants 5 out of 200 5 out of the 200 young researchers at the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF) were asked a series of questions to shed light on how someone is called to either mathematics or computer science and how their research develops. Jan Paul Toni Mueller B.Sc. Stanford University USA German What is the focus of your research? We are focusing on the whole pipeline of visual computing. Take the rendering of water splashes as an example: One starts with the mathematical description of the underlying physical systems, thinks about how this can be efficiently computed, and finally how to get that onto the screen. The end result is either something rendered in a good-looking way or a visualization of something that is not even visible in reality. Why did you become a computer scientist? Wind back the time to the 1990s. Cinema. Steven Spielberg. Jurassic Park. Even though I could not see the movie right when it came out, when I finally got the chance to see it a few years later, the film really left a lasting impression on me. Why did you apply for the HLF? At Stanford I have experienced both groundbreaking research as well as very strong connections to the industry and a real culture of startups that I have never seen before. In the Silicon Valley there is a butter smooth transition between invention and innovation. But even here I cannot meet so many amazing role models all in one place like at the HLF – it is really a unique opportunity. Manalebish Debalike Asfaw M.Sc. Addis Ababa University Ethiopia Ethiopian What is the focus of your research? My research is in mathematical modeling of ecological systems. My interests are in understanding the interaction between plants and herbivores and how they react to weather changes such as rainfall and different temperatures, and how the altitude influences their interactions. I am studying non-linear ODEs (ordinary differential equations) and PDEs (partial differential equations) in a stochastic and deterministic model of dynamics, computing the solutions. I am using the models to quantify the impact and risk of overgrazing and the impact of us humans on the environment, for example considering climate change and land use. Modeling ecological systems inspires interesting mathematical questions and challenges. At the same time, it helps improving the sustainable management of livestock. Why did you become a mathematician? Mathematics gives rules to follow and uses logic. I enjoy the abstractness of the subject and the challenge it brings. There was also the positive influence from my teachers on me to love mathematics. Why did you apply for the HLF? To meet and get experience from profound mathematicians from all over the world. 50

Participants Nikita Alekseev PhD George Washington University USA Russian What is the focus of your research? My current research is on the edge between comparative genomics and graph theory. One of my current projects is about understanding random graph models (like the Erdős–Rényi model) in connection with rearrangements of chromosomes, which is one of the driving forces of evolution. The goal of the method we developed is to estimate the evolutionary distance (the number of rearrangements) between species under the assumption that the rearrangements occurred randomly along the chromosomes. As a result, one can build a phylogeny more precisely using our method. Why did you become a mathematician? I had very good teachers in high school, and they showed me the beauty of abstract mathematical constructions. Being a student I was impressed by the variety of applications of math in different areas. At that point I decided that this was what I wanted to do professionally. Why did you apply for the HLF? I really hope I will be able to see the big picture in math and science one day. I believe the HLF is a very good place to learn how the most prominent scientists see the world. Bao Nhan Ho PhD La Trobe University Australia Vietnamese What is the focus of your research? I’m working on two-player combinatorial games. Examples of these games include Go, Chess, Checker, and Tic-tac-toe. My research focuses on impartial games in which legal moves depend on the position rather than who is about to move. The game of Nim is an example, in which the two players alternately remove tokens from a row of piles until all tokens are removed. I have analyzed many variants of Nim, studying winning strategies, complexity, and numerical properties including periodicity. Studying games is enjoyable as I can see how mathematics exists in real life. For example, it would help to explain why some games look simple to play but are very hard to analyze. Why did you become a mathematician? I enjoyed mathematics in high school, and the main reason is possibly that I am better at mathematics than other fields. Why did you apply for the HLF? This event is an excellent opportunity for young researchers to network. Meeting new people is enjoyable. Also, Heidelberg is a nice city. 51