The Erwin Schrödinger Institute needs help

The Austrian government has announced plans to terminate the funding for the Erwin Schrödinger Institute:

The Austrian Ministry of Science informed the ESI officially on November 8, 2010, that the Institute’s funding will be terminated with effect from January 1, 2011.

This decision comes just in time for the 50th anniversary of Schrödinger’s death on January 4, 2011.

News of the funding cut quickly spread among the scientific community and sparked off a large number of messages to Dr. Beatrix Karl, the Austrian Minister of Science and Research, in support of the ESI.

Currently discussions between the Ministry of Science, the University of Vienna and the Erwin Schrödinger Institute concerning the possible continuation of the ESI under the umbrella of the University of Vienna. The outcome of these discussion is unclear at this stage, but we hope for clarification by the end of November.

In its early days, the institute was located in the apartment building on Pasteurgasse where Erwin Schrödinger actually used to live. The institute headquarters were on the first and third floors, with the second floor private residence in between. We all loved the place and didn’t mind zipping up and down the stairs, although there was also an old-fashioned elevator if I remember correctly; but soon enough the two apartments became too cramped for the increasing number of visitors. In 1996, the institute moved to its current location at Boltzmanngasse 9.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Lacey.)

I visited the Schrödinger Institute three times, in 1994, 1998 and 2003. In 1994, the institute had a program on Schrödinger operators with emphasis on magnetic fields, and quantum scattering theory for the multiparticle Schrödinger equation with a constant magnetic field was my first serious research area, so there you go. That’s where I met most of the major players in the field. There was another program on magnetic Schrödinger operators in 1998. By then, I and my long-term and long-distance collaborator Christian Gérard had already started writing our book, and the program gave us a chance to get together and discuss some of that work in person.

A couple of years later, Thomas Hoffmann-Ostenhof asked if I would want to organize a program “on the Kakeya problem”. I did. I pointed out that it wouldn’t be exactly math physics, but the institute didn’t mind expanding its range of activities. What they ended up getting, in Spring 2003, was probably the first institute program in the area that was soon to be known as additive combinatorics. Alex Iosevich and Detlef Müller were the co-organizers. We invited researchers who worked in several different areas – harmonic analysis, number theory, combinatorics – but were interested in closely related problems. It worked out very well. Collaborations were struck, contacts were made. In my case, this was where I first met Malabika Pramanik (now my colleague at UBC) and Imre Ruzsa, among others.

I can’t really imagine that the institute might no longer exist in just a few weeks.

If you would like to help, write to the Austrian Minister of Science and Research, Dr. Beatrix Karl, beatrix.karl “at” (information courtesy of the AMS).

Author: Izabella Laba

Mathematics professor at UBC. My opinions are, obviously, my own.

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