Lisa Sauermann returns to Bonn: new Hausdorff Chair

Bonn, 08.09.2023. The Hausdorff Center for Mathematics (HCM) at the University of Bonn has again succeeded in attracting a top mathematician back to Germany, as Lisa Sauermann has accepted an offer and recently started as Hausdorff Chair at the Bonn Cluster of Excellence; she comes to this high-profile position from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, US, where she was Assistant Professor. A University of Bonn alumna, Lisa Sauermann became known for her outstanding mathematical talent as a young teen.

(c) Barbara Frommann / Universität Bonn

Her primary research field is probabilistic combinatorics, which involves the study of combinatorial problems applying methods from probability theory. Combinatorics is a subfield of mathematics, concerned with discrete structures. "We are interested for example in the maximum possible number of sets, or other objects, under certain conditions", she explains. "These types of questions arise in a wide variety of contexts. In addition to probabilistic techniques, I also utilize algebraic methods in my work." There are numerous applications for combinatorics within mathematics, but also in related areas, such as coding theory and computer science. At the University of Bonn, Lisa Sauermann works at the Institute for Applied Mathematics due to the pronouncedly ‘applied’ nature of her research discipline.

She accepted an offer to become a prestigious Hausdorff Chair at the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics (HCM)—a Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bonn. The HCM funds these lifetime chair professorships to enable attracting international scientists of the highest repute. Professor Lisa Sauermann now joins the other current chair holders: Ana Caraiani, Stefan Müller, Sven Rady, Angkana Rüland and Christoph Thiele. Former holders of the Hausdorff Chair include Benjamin Schlein, Massimiliano Gubinelli and Peter Scholze, who is now Director of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn.

Great success at the Mathematics Olympiad

Lisa Sauermann has been known for her tremendous mathematical talent since her early youth. While attending a special school for mathematics in Dresden she competed several times in the International Mathematical Olympiad, winning four gold medals and one silver—thereby becoming the competition’s most successful participant ever at that time. Upon finishing school Sauermann did her Bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Bonn, where she also taught at the Bonn Math Club for high school students. "When I was a high school student, mathematics was mainly something I did for fun," she relates. "I have always enjoyed sharing my love of mathematics with younger people."

Career in the US

After finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Bonn in 2014, Lisa Sauermann went to Stanford University, where she completed a five-year program to earn both a Master’s and Doctorate in Mathematics. Her doctoral dissertation earned the Richard Rado Prize awarded by the Discrete Mathematics Section of the German Mathematical Society. Sauermann then worked at Stanford University and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton until 2021, when she became an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). That same year she was awarded the European Prize in Combinatorics, and in 2022 she received a Sloan Research Fellowship. This fall the 30-year-old mathematician will be accepted into the Heisenberg Program of the German Research Foundation (DFG), which provides five-year grants for outstanding scientists

Returning to Bonn

Sauermann is very glad to be returning to Bonn after nine years living and working in the United States. "The University of Bonn is a superb work environment, and attracts exceptional students", she says. Her family is very happy too to now be living in Bonn, as she relates: "My two little girls are thrilled about all the ice cream shops all over town."