On 17 October 2016, at the opening ceremony of the 2016/17 academic year, five students and young scientists of Humboldt University Berlin (HU) were awarded with the Humboldt Prize 2016 in honor of their excellent scientific work. One of the recipients was BMS alumna Mira Schedensack who was recognised for her outstanding doctoral thesis. No sooner had Mira accepted one of the Humboldt dissertation prizes, than she was awarded with another prize! On 2 November 2016, the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB) honored Mira with the Marthe Vogt Award. The FVB was just as impressed by her excellent dissertation entitled "A class of mixed finite element methods based on the Helmholtz decomposition in computational mechanics".
Problems from mechanics are often solved using mathematics. For example, if a building engineer wants to know how a balcony will deform under a heavy load, mathematicians can describe this by means of partial differential equations. Usually, the solutions cannot be calculated exactly, so they are approximated using numerical methods. Thus the reliable numerical approach of such solutions plays a fundamental role in the mechanical application. For engineering practice, such procedures have to be easy to implement, deal sparingly with computer resources, and provide the most accurate results possible. For more than 50 years, mathematicians around the world have been researching extensively on how to improve this method, but in this area there was not much new to discover. The best minds had already developed the most efficient methods. Then Mira took up the challenge with an excellent dissertation that presented fundamentally new and sensationally easy-to-implement procedures. In her PhD thesis, Mira abandons the conventional approach to the approximation of PDE solutions and makes use of the characterization of the derivative as a conservative vector field via a Helmholtz decomposition, which breaks down an unstructured vector field into a gradient and a rotation field. Mira explained "There were no simple methods to solve problems of higher order. Whether or not I would find practical procedures was not initially clear, but the theory fascinated me." Mira wanted to do something completely new and not simply improve old methods. "That would certainly have been safer. My approach was risky, but I found it exciting" she said.
As a BMS scholarship holder, Mira did her PhD under the supervision of BMS faculty member Prof. Dr. Carsten Carstensen. She completed her doctorate at the HU in 2015 and graduated with summa cum laude. Currently, Mira is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bonn's Institute for Numerical Simulation and also a guest lecturer in the working group Numerical Mathematics at the HU.
The Humboldt Prize is an annual award given to outstanding students and young scientists whose final theses are deemed examples of outstanding scientific work. All prizes are awarded by the university president at the opening ceremony of the new academic year. The dissertation prize comes with a monetary award of 3000 euros. The FVB awards the Marthe Vogt Award annually to one outstanding young female scientist who is active in the same field as any of the eight research institutes represented by the FVB. This prize is also endowed with 3000 euros.
Mira, congratulations on your achievements!
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