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Advice from an international scholar

DECEMBER 2002 – Leading Austrian mathematician, Professor Norbert Mauser, says the links he made through his Marie Curie post-doc fellowship have had a lasting effect on his work.

Professor Norbert MauserFormer Marie Curie fellow, Norbert Mauser, is the perfect example of a mobile researcher. So far during his scientific career, he has studied and worked in Vienna, Berlin, Cagliari, Nice, New York, Paris, and now teaches regularly at summer schools in Europe, the United States and China.

He believes mobility is something essential to scientists, particularly those working in the mathematics field. "Nowadays applied mathematics problems are so complex that they have to be solved in teams. The Marie Curie activities help significantly to enhance the necessary mobility and bring together people working in the same and neighbouring fields," says Norbert Mauser, now a Professor of Mathematics at Vienna University.

The Marie Curie fellowship opportunity came Professor Mauser's way in the mid-1990s. In 1994 he was finalising his PhD at Vienna's Technical University and working at Berlin's Technical University. As his work contract neared its end, he applied for an 18-month Marie Curie post-doctoral fellowship to study applied mathematics at the University of Nice. "I chose Nice because France is the leading European country for mathematics and I already had good contacts and friends there," he said.

He began his Marie Curie Fellowship in 1996 and admits that sometimes he felt he was paving the way for future fellows. "While the scientific part was just great, the administration didn't know how to handle me, as at times the notion of a 'postdoc' was unknown in France, and it was six months before I received my first salary," he explained. "We felt like guinea pigs, dealing with countless bureaucratic problems."

When his fellowship finished in 1997, Professor Mauser spent time at the Courant Institute in New York, also fitting in a short stay as a 'Network Marie Curie Fellow' in Paris, where he discovered that foreigners at French universities still faced administrative headaches. It was this that motivated him to serve for one year on the board of the Marie Curie Fellowship Association.

An academic high-flyer, Mauser returned to Vienna in 1999 as a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Vienna, from where he now coordinates a large Marie Curie Research Training Network, HYKE, and directs the Wolfgang Pauli Institute.

He praises the notion of an international community of scholars and researchers, and notes that post-doctoral years abroad should soon be a requirement for any permanent academic position in Europe.

While welcoming the increasing mobility opportunities on offer to Europe's researchers, Professor Mauser believes there are still a number of obstacles to mobility, something which he is pleased to hear the EU is addressing with FP6. "For example, it is still too difficult to be mobile as a post-doc when you have or start a family. This is something that will have to be addressed in a very practical way, if we want to encourage more women to stay in science. I think a special European Commission Task Force dealing with Marie Curie Fellows with children could both help the young researchers and collect valuable information".

Any words of advice for future Marie Curie fellows? "Yes, I would say to anyone who receives a Marie Curie fellowship 'Go for it'. It is an enriching experience, and helped me to build up the networks of colleagues and scholars, which are vital to my work today. Finally, I think it is really important for Marie Curie fellows to learn the language of the host country, and to become immersed in the language and culture."

last update: 06-01-2003