Women of Mathematics: Elisabeth Gaar

Country: Austria

Affiliation: Universität Klagenfurt, Austria

Field of Research: combinatorial optimisation, nonlinear optimisation



1.) Why did you choose this formula?

This formula has been a major part of my research of the last few years. It is a very complicated formulation of a very simple problem. However, this formulation can be used in a highly elegant way to tackle a problem that isn’t possible to solve with easier formulations.


2.) What made you decide to study Mathematics?

At school I was very good at mathematics and especially at the mathematics competition “Känguru der Mathematik”. Because of that I started attending Mathematical Olympiad courses at the age of 14. At these courses, I found out that mathematics is much more than just playing with numbers, and is better compared to solving puzzles at a very high level. In the end it was a very easy decision to study mathematics.


3.) What do you like so much about Mathematics?

In mathematics, everything is purely logical and everything is either right or wrong. It may be that we don’t know yet which of the two possibilities it is, but exactly one of them is definitely true. The fact that it’s very often possible to reach the same result in several completely different ways is another thing that makes mathematics fascinating.


4.) How does Mathematics influence our lives on a daily basis?

Mathematics is everywhere. We are all lucky that some mathematicians took care of the complicated things and now we can benefit from their results and methods. Mathematics is used in the weather forecast, in the security measures of credit cards, in creating train timetables and deciding on the shortest route to your destination in Google Maps.


5.) Have you experienced a special Mathematics moment?

I really enjoy the feeling when I’m in the middle of proving some theorem and then I come up with the final idea that completes the proof. At this point you’re skeptical at first, so you reconsider and think about everything again. Eventually, you try to write up the proof and only then do you allow yourself to really believe that you have completed the proof.


6.) What advice would you give future mathematicians to help them on their way?

Getting started in the field of mathematics is always tough, because “real mathematics” is completely different to what pupils get taught at school. But it’s so much more exciting, fascinating and beautiful, so don’t let anybody discourage you.