On Wednesday 6 September, Merlijn Staps was awarded the Graduate School of Natural Sciences thesis award. He won the award for his thesis, “The diameter of hyperbolic random graphs”, the final project for his Master’s in Mathematical Sciences. Staps could not attend the award ceremony, since he is currently in the US for an internship at Princeton University. Therefore, Dean of the Faculty of Science Gerrit van Meer handed the award to Staps’ thesis supervisor, Tobias Muller. The other nominees for the award were Maarten Bransen (Nanomaterials Science), who also won this year's Utrecht University Master’s thesis award, and Abe Wits (Computing Science).
Staps studied the distances between points in networks, aiming to calculate the maximum distance between two points in ‘hyperbolic random graphs’. This is a difficult mathematical problem that several researchers had already attempted to solve. Staps was the first to find a solution to the problem, and will likely publish his results in an academic journal. The jury, consisting of Elwin Savelsbergh (Mathematics), Gerard Tel (Computer Science), Daan Wegener (Mathematics), Frank de Groot (Chemistry) and Carleen Tijm-Reijmer (Physics), praised Staps for the quality and depth of his work. They also commended him for opening his thesis with a layman’s introduction to the central concepts, making a thesis on such a complex topic clearly more accessible.