During the second funding period of the Excellence Initiative (2012 – 2017), the Berlin Mathematical School (BMS) implemented its Dirichlet Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. This program, advertised widely across the broad range of mathematical fields represented in Berlin, contributed to making the BMS even more visible internationally, and attracted outstanding applications from all around the world. This was evidenced by the many letters of recommendation from very prominent and international mathematicians. Due to limited funding, the fellowship was offered only three times, therefore over three successive years, a highly-qualified young researcher was hired to take up a two-year Dirichlet Postdoc position at the BMS.
The BMS Dirichlet Postdoctoral Fellows were Nils Waterstraat (2013 – 2015), Maryna Viazovska (2014 – 2016) and Daniela Egas Santander (2015 – 2017). Viazovska, who came to the BMS from the Ukraine via the University of Bonn, made international headlines in March 2016 when she produced a stunning solution to a famous mathematical problem: the sphere packing problem in dimension eight. One week later, together with Henry Cohn and other co-authors, she solved the same problem in dimension 24. To date, the sphere packing problem remains unsolved in all other dimensions greater than three.