What are the challenges in math research

13.11.2017 13:10

15 years of MATHEON: pioneering mathematics research across borders

Dr. Uta Deffke MATHEON, Press and Public Relations, Secretariat MA 3-1
Research center MATHEON ECMath

The Berlin research center MATHEON can look back on 15 successful years these days. Motivated by current questions from fields of application such as health research or energy supply, the mathematicians develop new, more powerful methods of modeling, simulation and optimization. They thus make a decisive contribution to technological and mathematical progress. With its culture of cooperation across borders - for example between science and industry or the public - MATHEON stands for a future-oriented research concept. On November 15, 2017, 6 p.m., all of this will be celebrated with a festival of Berlin mathematics.

Custom-fit medication with reduced side effects, faster bus connections thanks to optimized timetables, new concepts for more efficient solar cells, optimized charging cycles for lithium-ion batteries - all of this is hardly conceivable today without mathematics. The innovation cycles in research and development are getting shorter and shorter, the demands on the quality of industrial products are increasing, and the systems to be considered are becoming more and more complex.

Progress for key technologies

The Berlin research center MATHEON has impressively demonstrated over the past 15 years what contribution mathematics can make to progress in key technologies such as biotechnology, micro- and optoelectronics or information and communication technologies. Mathematics has the ability to abstract and break problems down into their important and less important aspects. On this basis, virtual models of real processes and procedures for simulation and optimization can be developed. Mathematics thus opens up new possibilities for mastering the growing complexity, for reacting quickly to changed conditions and for finding completely new ways of solving problems.

Solutions to problems from the application

223 scientists are currently researching at MATHEON. They are dedicated to mathematical questions that are motivated by six current fields of application: Clinical research and healthcare, sustainable energy supply, urban infrastructures, optical technologies, geometry and visualization, as well as education and the public.

For example, MATHEON researchers develop supporting virtual tools for medical professionals who treat patients with hip joint damage. They are based on the analysis of real movements and model and simulate individual stress scenarios for natural and artificial hip joints. MATHEON cooperates with orthopedic surgeons from the Charité and the Stavanger University Hospital.

The telecommunications sector also benefits from MATHEON research. The newly developed models and algorithms will enable the ICT industry much better in the future to design optimal networks that contain both wired and radio-based components. A major challenge here is the aspect of uncertainty due to the variability in the data volume and the wireless connections.

With their models, MATHEON researchers provide valuable basics and knowledge for the development of nanostructures, which are just as essential for the next generation of thin-film solar cells as for new batteries with higher storage capacity. In both areas, the surface effects and degeneration processes considered here play an essential role for functionality and service life. MATHEON works with various partners, including the Virtual Helmholtz Institute "Microstructure Control for Thin Film Solar Cells".

International mathematics lighthouse in Berlin

In a large number of such and similar collaborations, often also long-term, MATHEON has established itself as a sought-after partner to both industry and other sciences. It has earned a reputation that is unique worldwide and made Berlin an international lighthouse in mathematics, attracting numerous top researchers and leading to more than 125 calls for professorships for scientists at MATHEON.

The special thing about MATHEON is that mathematicians from the three Berlin universities Freie Universität (FU), Humboldt University (HU) and Technical University (TU) and the non-university research institutes WIAS (Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics) and ZIB (Zuse Institute Berlin) work at MATHEON ) together. This cross-institutional construct was unique when MATHEON was founded in 2002 as a DFG research center. It is now considered a role model for research and excellence clusters around the world.

After a maximum of twelve years, the funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) ended in 2014. Since then, MATHEON has been funded by the Einstein Foundation within the Einstein Center for Mathematics Berlin ECMath, which supports top international research in Berlin. After an excellent evaluation by an international panel of experts, MATHEON can continue its successful work within the framework of ECMath until the end of 2018.

Recipe for success: pushing boundaries

“Our strength lies in our cooperative culture,” says Martin Skutella, Einstein Professor for Combinatorial Optimization and Graph Algorithms at the TU Berlin and since June 2016 spokesman for MATHEON. More and more social challenges, be it in the context of climate change, urban development or health, can only be mastered if researchers, developers and users from very different disciplines work together. “We have learned to talk to a wide variety of partners across the boundaries of subjects and institutions and to work closely together - regardless of whether they are from industry, healthcare, finance, other sciences or the general public. We have thus established a future-oriented research concept that is an essential guarantee for the ongoing success of MATHEON. "

Partner of the economy

More than 130 large, small and medium-sized companies have benefited from this willingness to cross borders, such as Daimler Chrysler AG, Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe BVG, Infineon Technologies AG, Microsoft Corporation or Philips Research, but also banks and hospitals. MATHEON researchers have had their application-oriented results partially protected by patents or transferred to software products. And numerous spin-offs have been founded from MATHEON, including

• “1000spheres” in the field of computer-aided design and production for the analysis and further processing of 2D and 3D measurement data. For example for applications in 3D computer graphics and animation, sports, ergonomics and medicine; from individual production to mass production based on statistical evaluation of data from many different individuals.

• "JCMwave" with a powerful finite element software for calculating the propagation of electromagnetic waves, which is used, for example, for the targeted design of modern nano-optical components; and

• "getLig & tar" for the area of ​​tailor-made active ingredient design.

Mathematics advanced

Not only users benefit from cross-border thinking, but also mathematics itself. Decisive progress is made here not only through various external influences, but above all through insights into the work of mathematicians with a different specialization: “This is not only interesting , but also opens new doors for your own research: You suddenly realize that findings or methods from one mathematical sub-area - such as discrete optimization or statistics - can also be used in another, for example with partial differential equations. And that brings mathematics itself forward, ”says Volker Mehrmann, Professor of Numerical Mathematics, TU Berlin, and from 2008 to 2016 spokesman for MATHEON.

Outreach included

The motto of the diverse activities of MATHEON in the direction of education and the public is also outside the box. They were a focus from the start and were also on the research agenda. In the context of ECMath and the cooperation with the German Center for Teacher Education (DZLM), a mathematics training concept for teaching staff from the elementary school sector was recently developed.

In addition, MATHEON has established various communication formats with which mathematicians pass on their enthusiasm for their subject to children, young people and the general public. This includes the annual web-based MATHEON advent calendar, which has a great response every year and for some years now has also been an invitation to puzzle pre-Christmas in English and Dutch; the MathsInside lecture series, in which MATHEON researchers prepare exciting applied math topics for schoolchildren; the MATHEathlON, in which running and arithmetic are combined in a sporting competition; and the new video format “What's Math?”.

"Mathematics as a whole"

MATHEON's commitment to young talent has been consistently further developed with the concept of “Mathematics as a Whole” - mathematics as a whole - and has become a guiding principle of ECMath. The idea: The strength and fascination of mathematics should be conveyed and used at all levels - from pre-school education through school, university, doctorate to the post-doctoral phase. "With the transition to the Einstein Center - which, incidentally, was the first of its kind - we have positioned ourselves even more broadly in the Berlin research landscape," says Michael Hintermüller, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the HU Berlin and spokesman for ECMath. As a platform, ECMath also integrates the German Center for Teacher Education (DZLM) and the Berlin Mathematical School (BMS), an international graduate school that emerged from MATHEON and is now funded as part of the federal government's Excellence Initiative. “The fact that you can illuminate, study, develop and prepare for the future of mathematics here from elementary school to professorship is unique in this range,” concludes Hintermüller.

The future in view - with Math +

With the experience, the constant further development and the successes of MATHEON and ECMath, mathematics in Berlin is also equipped for the future in terms of content and structure. “For example, the topic of digitization is moving more and more into focus. It finds its way into all areas of life and research - from biology to the humanities and social sciences. Here, too, there are plenty of points of contact for MATHEON, because mathematics also plays a key role in the success of the digital revolution, ”says MATHEON spokesman Skutella. With "Math + The Berlin Mathematics Research Center", Berlin Mathematics has submitted a cluster application based on the spirit of MATHEON, BMS and ECMath as part of the federal and state excellence strategy that points to the future. Math + was successful in the first round and was asked to submit a full application by February 2018.

MATHEON celebrates - and invites

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary, MATHEON is celebrating a festival of Berlin mathematics. Representatives of the media are cordially invited:

November 15, 2017, 6:00 p.m., Urania Berlin, Kleist-Saal

Details about the program can be found at: www.matheon.de/15jahre

Afterwards, we look forward to talking to you at a reception.

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