Algant mathematics programme brings non-Western talent to Leiden
The Algant European PhD programme is an important stimulus for international collaboration between mathematicians. Most of the participants have a Leiden thesis supervisor. Vietnamese participant Dung is the first to complete his dissertation. He is returning to Vietnam with a mission.
The Algant programme was a golden opportunity, says Duong Hoang Dung. ‘Doing a PhD in Vietnam is very difficult. I would not get a grant there and in addition to paying for the tuition fees, I would also have to work very hard to pay for my living costs while doing research. This means there would be much less time for the thesis.’ And there are other limitations too. ‘In Vietnam it is almost impossible to visit international conferences abroad, or to have easy access to the latest publications in mathematics.’ On 14 May, Dung will be defending his thesis entitled ‘Profinite groups with a rational probabilistic zeta function’.
Algant stands for Algebra, Geometry and Number Theory. ‘This PhD programme is financed by the European Union and its goal is to place Europe firmly on the mathematics map,’ explains Hendrik Lenstra, Professor of Fundamental Mathematics and Dung’s thesis supervisor. ‘Until recently, talented non-Western mathematicians tended to choose for the US and this programme is an important stimulus for brining this group to Europe.’ The PhD candidates receive a grant and the participating universities are also awarded funding for the supervision.
One of the conditions of Algant is that each PhD candidate is supervised by at least two of the partner universities. Dung’s other supervisor works in Italy, at the University of Padua. Dung: ‘I now have the advantage of two supervisors with expertise in different fields. This has generated many good ideas and perspectives for my research.’
Leiden is the only Dutch university participating in this programme and it is collaborating with universities in Paris, Bordeaux, Milan and Padua. In addition, there is also collaboration with universities in India and South Africa. Lenstra: ‘This programme results in a high degree of international solidarity. Close contacts have developed both between the European universities and beyond.’
Lenstra admits that this international collaboration also takes up a lot of time because there are many procedures that have to be co-ordinated. Every university has its own rules when it comes to PhD candidates. For instance, French universities work with two reporters in the defence committee who write a piece on the PhD defence. Leiden now also includes two reporters in the committee if the other supervisor is affiliated with a French university. Lenstra: ‘It’s a feast for lovers of bureaucratic antics.’
Leiden is supervising no fewer than ten of the sixteen participating PhD candidates. Lenstra: ‘This benefits our research and it's also financially attractive because every defence brings in additional government funding. Other universities, for instance in Italy, are not familiar with this construction.’ Dung will soon be returning to Vietnam with a mission. ‘With my new knowledge I want to contribute to the development of mathematics in Vietnam. In addition, I would like to share my experience with Vietnamese students and help them also to go abroad.’
(22 April 2013)