The Berlin Mathematical School is now an internationally recognized brand and has inspired imitators
In 2006, the Berlin Mathematical School (BMS) began as an experiment among Berlin's three large universities (the Technische Universität Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin) and on its 10th anniversary has grown into one of the most established and prestigious math graduate schools in the world. Its reputation is confirmed by a steady rise in the number of applicants – more than 500 students now apply for 40 places every year. The school has been financed by the German Research Foundation since the first round of the Excellence Initiative in 2006, with additional support from the three universities.
"The BMS has achieved a lot in these ten years: it's changed the mathematical landscape in Berlin, brought international students from all corners of the globe to the city and given math studies here an identity and a face," says Prof. Günter M. Ziegler, the school's current chair. What makes the BMS unique is its structure: the students at all three universities work through a standardized program toward a master's and then a doctoral degree. No German language skills are required. In phase one, the students are able to attend the entire range of math lectures at all three universities. In phase two, they concentrate on their doctoral project and have access to the extremely broad spectrum of mathematical research activities at Berlin's universities and institutes.
"The BMS is the only German graduate school for mathematics that you can really identify with. So when we're asked which college we're from, most of us answer: Berlin Mathematical School," says Dr. Felix Günther, winner of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation's Friedrich Hirzebruch PhD Thesis Prize, and currently a postdoc at TU Berlin.
Dr. Forough Sodoudi, Managing Director and Head of the BMS One-Stop Office, explains: "The BMS's explicitly international ethos, the close-knit student community and the intensive mentoring provided by the professors create a really unique, welcoming atmosphere, and at the same time give alumni access to a global network."
"The international contacts that BMS students make are incredible. Last week I was visiting a research group in Bergen in Norway, and I bumped into an old classmate from the BMS," adds Dr. Ágnes Cseh, a Hungarian BMS alumna and recipient of the Klaus Tschira Award for Achievements in Public Understanding of Science.
Support from the BMS's One-Stop Office makes it easier for the school's many international students to settle in. The office doesn't just help with study-related questions, visas and residence permits, but also with finding a place to live, shared offices or learning spaces, and it organizes the now legendary BMS Fridays. Every second Friday of the month almost the entire BMS family meets in the BMS Loft in Urania for a math colloquium.
"Direct contact with the PhD students helped me a lot at the beginning. There I could ask questions on all kinds of topics – studies, conferences, careers or social life in Berlin," says András Tóbiás, a BMS student in phase two.
The school's ten-year anniversary was celebrated from 16 to 18 November 2016 with an event in the TU Audimax featuring talks and presentations from distinguished guests. With Excellence Initiative funding coming to an end in 2017, the future of the BMS was, of course, a subject of discussion. But while the BMS is inspiring imitators on the international stage with math graduate schools based on the BMS model springing up from Stockholm to Barcelona, back in Berlin the focus is on the next step. Prof. Ziegler elaborates: "It's no secret that an application is being prepared for a Cluster of Excellence involving a graduate school that takes in the entire Berlin mathematics scene. No prizes for guessing its name... The Berlin Mathematical School – now an internationally renowned brand."
And one more thing:
TU President Christian Thomsen used his opening address at the BMS's anniversary on 17 November 2016 to prove a point – or two. Playing to his mathematically minded audience, he demonstrated the proofs that 1. there are an infinite number of Pythagorean twins and 2. for large numbers they have a fixed, predictable relation to one another. Whether or not the mathematicians in attendance were convinced is unclear. Click here to download the explanation for yourself (in German): www.tu-berlin.de/?179751  http://www.tu-berlin.de/?179751