Marta Pieropan

Marta writing with chalk on a blackboard

As a mathematician I don’t need fancy resources to do my work. But what I do need is funding to give me the freedom to do science for science’s sake. This is where my colleagues in the Faculty of Science have been incredibly helpful.

Strong support programme

Utrecht University has a really strong research support programme, and I’ve been given a lot of support – both formal and informal – when applying for grants. There’s a wonderful atmosphere within the mathematics department and we all read each other’s grant applications and help each other to prepare for the interviews. Thanks to all this support I’ve been lucky to receive two grants in the past year!

The first was a Vidi grant, a personal grant for people at my career stage. Thanks to the grant, I’m in the process of hiring a PhD candidate and a postdoc. My work is at the intersection between algebraic geometry and number theory. What I’m proposing to do with this grant is to make a new connection between my specialised research area, counting rational points of bounded height on Fano varieties, and a completely separate part of algebraic geometry called logarithmic Gromov-Witten theory.

I also teamed up with six colleagues from other universities in the Netherlands to apply for an NWO Open Competition XL grant. It was a long and demanding process, but we got the grant! We’re going to use it to build a research centre on ‘rational points’ with six PhD candidates and three postdocs. I’m really looking forward to building this research programme. We’ll be organising workshops and seminars and there’ll be lots of interdisciplinary interaction.

I really enjoy it when people learn something from my lectures. That’s my goal. It gives me great fulfilment.

Sharing science

Marta discussing her work in a group session

While my research is super important to me, I also love teaching. Compared to other countries such as Italy or Germany, the teaching load at Utrecht University is not heavy. I’ve just started giving a Master’s course to 80 students from different universities in the area. Students participate and ask lots of questions. After the stress of teaching from home it’s been great to experience such a lively atmosphere again. I really enjoy it when people learn something from my lectures. That’s my goal. It gives me great fulfilment.

At Utrecht University we really value our students and there’s a lot of support for them. For example, the Master’s students all have a tutor to guide them and to help them choose the right curriculum. This can be really helpful for them – and it didn’t happen at the other universities I’ve been at.

Team science

Before I came here from Switzerland, I heard really positive things about Utrecht University. And they’ve all been confirmed since I arrived. I’m surrounded by colleagues who all think it’s very important to do good research. And to support each other. We have joint seminars where we talk about what we’re working on and we actively try to find connections. When someone has published an article or received an award, the whole group celebrates with them.