Todor Bilarev,
BMS Phase II Student,
Qualifying Exam BMS, MSc Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
BSc Jacobs University Bremen

After finishing my Bachelor studies in Mathematics at Jacobs University Bremen, a small international university with people from all around the world, I was sure that I wanted to continue my studies in such an international environment, and the BMS had the reputation of providing one of the best programs in Europe. In addition, Berlin is so vibrant and attractive for young people that I was sure I wanted to live there someday. After being invited for an interview during the BMS Days I was lucky to be offered a Phase I scholarship and came to Berlin with high expectations. Of course I was not disappointed.

During my Phase I period, I was able (and encouraged) to attend courses in many different areas. Although I came to Berlin with my main interest in Numerical Analysis and took the main courses in this field, after a while I realized that the world of Probability and Stochastics was more appealing to me and decided to devote my time exploring the subject. Actually the first course I had in this area (BMS Basic course “Stochastic Processes I”) was taught by my PhD supervisor and since then I have been giving the tutorials when he teaches it. Changing the subject was a difficult personal decision for me and also required formally changing university (from FU to HU), however the help from the staff at the BMS office made the administrative work so easy.

One of the strengths of the BMS in my view is its great community (family) that includes not only students, but also professors. After the first year of studies I and two other students from the BMS decided to set up our own shared flat (WG) and thus the BMS literally became my family here in Berlin. Also, in every course I attended there were other BMS students and we were all working together to achieve a common goal: preparing well for our academic life and in particular for the BMS Qualifying Exam. It was really motivating seeing people in the BMS Lounge trying to understand together the meaning of a deep theorem and even testing each other for the next exam. Moreover, having a Mentor during Phase I really helped me to better organize my study plan and more importantly, to learn about different funding possibilities for the PhD.

At the end of my Phase I, I wrote a Master thesis, passed the qualifying exam and started my PhD studies as a Phase II student. During Phase II, people are typically more concentrated on their own research and rarely meet other students outside of their area of specialization. However, I found the BMS Fridays a great possibility to go and listen to other types of mathematics, to meet people that I usually don’t meet in our seminars. The BMS organizes many special workshops and conferences in Berlin, but also supports students to attend events abroad. For example, thanks to the support from the BMS I was able to go to the AIMS institute in Cameroon and to tutor graduate students there for three weeks. And of course to tell them about the great opportunities one has here in Berlin to do interesting mathematics.

After six years in Berlin, I am certain that this was the right choice for me both academically and personally. I can hardly imagine another place that provides you with experts in all fields of mathematics that is so welcoming to young people and that has such a well-developed graduate school like BMS.

Published in February 2018