Mathematician and Spinoza Prize winner Prof. Ieke Moerdijk began work as a University Professor at Utrecht University on 1 January. He experienced his return to the Uithof as ‘familiar on the one hand, and refreshing on the other’. He is looking forward to working with the new young colleagues that Mathematics has recruited over the past few years, as well as his ambition to bring together different users and uses of mathematics across the university.
In the first week of January, Prof. Moerdijk was still surrounded by moving boxes holding his books and papers. His new office is on the top floor of the Freudenthal building, two floors higher than when he left for Radboud University Nijmegen four years ago. “I’ve clearly come up in the world”, he jokes. He wished to emphasise that he enjoyed working in Nijmegen. “But it is a great honour to be appointed as a University Professor. It is only a position like this that provides the freedom for all my activities."
Breadth across the university
When looking at his curriculum, his interest in the breadth of Mathematics and in bringing people together immediately leap out at the reader. Moerdijk combined studies in Philosophy and General Linguistics with his studies in Mathematics. In his doctoral research, he combined topology, which is part of geometry, with mathematical logic and became one of the pioneers in the field of Topological Logic. He researched connections between algebra and set theory, and algebra and topology. He also received the Descartes-Huygens Prize for his contributions to the scientific collaboration between France and The Netherlands. And now he hopes to connect the applications of mathematics across the faculties at Utrecht University.
Raise awareness of Mathematics
“Mathematics is used in a large number of disciplines, but it is usually relegated to the background. Mathematicians are often unaware of how and where they can help their fellow researchers. And researchers from different faculties may need the same mathematical tools and techniques, without knowing it. It would be great if there were more awareness of these issues within the university, across the borders of the faculties and disciplines. I hope to contribute to bringing this about.”