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Diploma Programme Alum Success

IMPA tenure-track position

Diploma Programme Alum Success
Diploma Programme Alum Success

13/06/2019 - Trieste

Mathematician Khadim War studies chaos, searching for patterns in tangled systems. But his career is far from chaotic, as the ICTP alum has just been hired at the Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a top mathematics research center. Not only was he hired, but he was offered a tenure track position, a serious achievement for any young scientist. “I’m very happy to have been hired,” War says, “I’ve been there many times, and it’s a perfect place in terms of my math interests."

Those interests started back in middle school in Senegal, War's native country, where his older brothers were already excelling in science. “I started specializing in math and physics, and studied both fields at Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis, Senegal. But career-wise, I realized I wanted to do as much math as possible, not to go into an applied field like engineering,” says War. As the top student of his class at a university where several professors regularly visited ICTP, he was encouraged to apply to ICTP’s Diploma Programme in mathematics.

Khadim2War and his siblings grew up in a small village of about 500 people in the Louga region of Senegal, and their parents wanted them to do well in math and science. “My father wanted me to be a medical doctor,” War remembers, but his success has convinced his father that pure mathematics is also a good career. “Now, my parents joke with each other about who is responsible for my ability in math; each of them claims credit,” he laughs.

The autumn after graduating with his bachelor’s degree, War was headed to Trieste to start the 2011-2012 Diploma programme, where he excelled. He started working with ICTP mathematician Stefano Luzzatto, who became his PhD advisor when he entered the joint ICTP-SISSA PhD programme after completing the Diploma Programme. “Stefano was a great advisor,” War says, and the two remain collaborators, in the field of dynamical systems. IMPA, War’s new institute, has a rich culture in the field, as does the region.

Those math interests center around chaos, “which is kind of like positive entropy,” War explains. The study of chaos first started with the modernization of weather forecasts, where patterns emerge from a vast amount of constantly changing variables, which in turn make it very difficult to precisely predict the weather. “We’re trying to find some laws in the chaos by studying small perturbations in a system, or following only two points within a system,” War says.

There are many open questions and problems in this field that interest War, and he knows IMPA will be a great place to work on them. “As a researcher with a tenure-track position, I am lucky to not have to do a lot of teaching, I have a lot of time for research, including three months for research visits with other scientists and institutes,” says War. That flexibility and focus on research is a key focus and attraction of IMPA compared to other institutions, he explains, a flexibility which will allow him to spend a year doing research at the prestigious University of Chicago starting in the fall of 2019.

Beyond the achievement of relative job security in a very competitive academic system, a time frame beyond one to two year post doctoral position allows for a different, long-term approach to problems and research in general, War explains. “ICTP is a great place, it has been a great place for my career so far,” says War. “I am now very happy and proud to be moving to IMPA and Brazil.” And ICTP is very proud of him.


---- Kelsey Calhoun