Fulfilment through mathematics

Delight at the award of the Leibniz Prize: at the Mathematics Münster Cluster of
Delight at the award of the Leibniz Prize: at the Mathematics Münster Cluster of Excellence, they were overjoyed at this accolade for Eva Viehmann (front, 5th from left). © Uni MS - Victoria Liesche

Eva Viehmann is awarded the Leibniz Prize, the most important German research prize

Great moments do not always happen in glamorous situations or scenarios. Often, they occur unexpectedly and consequently in everyday moments - which is what happened to Münster University mathematician Prof. Eva Viehmann just recently. She received a telephone call which marked the highlight so far of her as yet still young academic career - and it came while she was having a discussion with tradesmen at home about repair work to the central heating. At the other end of the line was the German Research Foundation (DFG), informing her that she was being awarded the Leibniz Prize.

To show its significance: the award is not only the most valuable research prize in Germany but also the most important scientific accolade. So it was hardly surprising that Eva Viehmann was not just surprised, but positively overwhelmed when she learned that the jury was honouring her for her outstanding achievements in the field of arithmetical geometry. "I really hadn’t expected to receive the prize," she says. In any case, prizes and awards were never what drove her work, she says. "That wouldn’t function as a driving force," she explains. "I became a mathematician because I love carrying out mathematical research, and because for me it’s a source of fulfilment to think about mathematics."

Viehmann, 43, began her academic career in Bonn, where she studied mathematics. Her subsequent PhD, which she also completed at the University of Bonn, marked a decisive point in her career. "For my PhD, I switched to arithmetical geometry. I took a lot of time before reaching this decision because I wanted to find out what really interested me," she says. It was a wise decision, as the award of the Leibniz Prize shows. In its citation, the DFG states that Eva Viehmann is "significantly advancing" this field of research with her work. Viehmann, who is Professor of Theoretical Mathematics, had already received numerous prestigious awards before - including an ERC Starting Grant and an ERC Consolidator Grant, as well as being admitted to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

"The Leibniz Prize is a great honour for me," says Eva Viehmann, who has been doing research at the University of Münster since the beginning of 2022. The prize enables her to fulfil some professional dreams, she says. "It gives me an opportunity in the coming years to continue building up my working group under the best possible conditions - and these are already excellent at the Institute of Mathematics and at the Mathematics Münster Cluster of Excellence," she comments. "But the Leibniz Prize means I can completely relax and plan freely. That makes me happy."

This article was first published in the University newspaper ’wissen