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Bridging China and the world using math
2016-11-07

 

  By Echo Xiong

  Recruited by the 1000 Talent Plan for High-Level Foreign Experts in China, Professor Peter Kloeden started teaching math at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), in December 2014. Last April, he received the State Specially Recruited Experts Certificate at the 13th Conference on International Exchange of Professionals, issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of China.

  "I see my role more as a bridge to connect Chinese and Western academic worlds," he said.

  Over the past year and a half, Professor Kloeden has taught students with passion, conducted academic exchanges throughout China, and inspired thousands of Chinese scholars.

  Passion for math

  For some people, math can be boring and difficult. However, for Professor Peter Kloeden, math has been his lifelong pursuit.

  When he was a young student, he used to be very good at mathematics. "I like the logical consistency of mathematics and its exactness, and was fascinated to discover that it could be used in so many different applications." That's why he chose math as his major in college, and why he has continued his study of mathematics for more than 40 years.

  Professor Kloeden became a Fellow of the Australian Mathematical Society in 1995 and a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (USA) in 2009. He has taught applied mathematics at Frankfurt University since 1997 and received the W.T. and Idalia Reid Prize in Mathematics in 2005. He said that,"As a student, you have to do math and you feel bored," and added, "But later on, you see it being used in meteorology to predict the weather. When you use your telephone, there's a lot of mathematics telling your phone what to do, and I'm particularly interested in the application of random systems to biological medicine. You can apply it to nearly anything."

  Wuhan came to me

  Professor Peter Kloeden spent the previous 20 years in Frankfurt, Germany, and his hometown is Melbourne, Australia. When asked why he came to Wuhan in China, he replied, "Wuhan came to me."

  "When I worked in Germany, I worked with a group of Chinese professors on various research projects. Two were from this department at HUST, so I had a connection with people from Wuhan."

  He said, "I found it very pleasant to work with them and was always impressed by how good they were at mathematics. This is also true with other Chinese coworkers whom I have met since coming to China."

  One of his longtime friends, Professor Duan Jinqiao, is also a professor at HUST. "I have known him for over 20 years. It was at a conference in the U.S. during the 1990s. We were both interested in the applications of random dynamical systems and started working together through email ever since." He also made several visits to Wuhan for research.

  "In Germany, the official retirement age is 65. So at the time, I thought to myself, what do I do?" he said. "I came to China."

  Closing the gap

  Professor Kloeden specializes in the area of random dynamical systems and their applications. He is a pioneer in the development of efficient numerical algorithms for the simulation of stochastic differential equations, which are used to model random dynamical systems. These methods are now used in many branches of sciences and engineering as well as in the finance industry.

  Here, Professor Kloeden gives lectures to master's and doctoral students. He is happy to spend his time talking to students. He listens to their problems, shares his experience and expertise, and helps them make progress. He also does research with people from different places in China.

  "There are a lot of people here who are much cleverer than I am, but they don't know what to do. For Chinese young people, they don't have contacts outside," he said.

  "But I do. I have research contacts in many countries, including Australia, Germany, Spain, Japan, etc. I'm here to connect and bridge. When they want to learn a new topic, I'll invite someone in that area to come and share their knowledge."

  "People here are now very interested in some computational methods for random systems. It's a rather new area in China. I'm here to tell what some of the developments are like. With this work I am doing, they quickly learn what's going on."

  Impressions of Wuhan

  Prior to becoming a professor at HUST, he paid several visits to Wuhan three or four years ago to do research and attend conferences.

  Professor Kloeden shared his impressions about the city: "One thing interesting about Wuhan is that there are a lot of lakes and hills, which I like. I know that it's a city with the largest number of universities, and I'm amazed by how fast things change here. There are always new buildings, roads, and metro lines."

  However, one thing that hasn't changed for him is the help he has received from the friendly people. "I don't speak much Chinese, but I've got help from my colleagues. I really look forward to my time in Wuhan to come."

  Name: Peter Kloeden

  Nationality: Australian

  Time spent in Wuhan: Over a year

  Occupation: Professor at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology