Silvia de Toffoli,
BMS Phase II student,
MSc University of Bologna

I was completing my Master studies in Paris, thinking about where I could continue research in a PhD program. Wandering the halls of my university, I saw a BMS poster. It was the solution to my academic doubts. The application deadline was not so far away, so I quickly gathered all the material I needed for the application and decided to give it a try.

I had never visited Berlin before; the first time was when I traveled there for the BMS Days. I realized then that doing a PhD in Berlin would be a great opportunity and a great environment - and not only to learn math. It didn't take long to realize that Berlin also offers a lot in terms of culture (music, arts, theater, etc.). Additionally, I have always wanted to learn German, so this was another reason to move to Berlin.

I must admit that I was very nervous at the BMS Days, but it worked out very nicely and I was accepted. The program was well organized. I participated in the “buddy program”, so a veteran student of the BMS picked me up at the airport and showed me around. That was great. We still keep in touch and I consider him my friend.

Once I arrived, I realized that I had made the right choice. Not only had I found a stimulating professional environment but also really helpful staff in the BMS One-Stop Office. They found me a nice flat and helped me with all the necessary paperwork, which would have been quite difficult to figure out alone; many things were written in German and, at the time, I could barely string two words together in German.

I also took advantage of other activities they offered, like the BMS Fridays, where I can hear great mathematicians talk about many different topics, and the summer schools organized every year. Recently, I participated in one of the soft skills seminars. Although at the beginning I was a bit skeptical, I really enjoyed them and learned a lot!

BMS is a great environment because of its terrific organization. It gave me the opportunity to meet brilliant mathematicians and to go to international conferences in order to connect with other people working in my field. And the location counts, too. I think Berlin is really the perfect city for a PhD student. It is affordable, culturally stimulating, and has a great university network!

published in September 2012

Update 2018: Since September 2014 Silvia has been working on a second PhD in philosophy at Stanford University. She obtained a MA in Philosophy from Stanford in 2016 and she will start a postdoc at Princeton University in January 2019.