New Professor of Theoretical Mathematics: Hans-Joachim Hein
We welcome Prof. Hans-Joachim Hein to the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science and the Cluster of Excellence Mathematics Münster. In October he moved from Fordham University, New York, to the University of Münster in order to take up a professorship in Theoretical Mathematics. He carries out research in the field of differential geometry and partial differential equations.
Hans-Joachim Hein, 36, works primarily on Kähler metrics with prescribed curvature – more precisely, Ricci or scalar curvatures. "The curvature is, as we know from Riemannian geometry, a non-linear elliptical differential operator of second order," he explains. "In the case of Kähler metrics, what interests me is characterizing the existence and uniqueness of solutions, as well as the nature of their singularities, by means of algebraic-geometric properties of the underlying complex manifolds or complex spaces."
After studying in Gießen and Bonn, Hans-Joachim Hein went out into the world. He wrote his doctoral thesis at Princeton University in the USA, and after that he undertook research for three years as a postdoc at Imperial College London. His first established appointment was at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Nantes, France. In 2014 he returned to the USA, becoming Assistant Professor firstly at the University of Maryland, then at Fordham University in New York. Most recently, he was an Associate Professor there and holder of the Kim B. and Stephen E. Bepler Chair.
Hans-Joachim Hein looks back on his career so far with a mixture of gratitude, astonishment and a little pride. "If someone had told me 20 years ago that this is where I would be now, I wouldn’t have believed it," he says. He was the first person in his family to go to grammar school and then to university. "In the postwar years my parents never had these opportunities themselves. I’m grateful to them that they have always given me their support on the paths I’ve chosen," he adds. While he was still at school, logical structures and tricky theories fascinated him, so he decided to study mathematics.
"While I was an undergraduate, and even while I was still at school, I often thought, 'God, am I actually good enough for this?' Luckily, again and again I had teachers and mentors who motivated me." It was his diploma thesis supervisor, for example, who encouraged him to go to America to do his PhD. "That was my first trip abroad," says Hein. Working with researchers from all over the world is something which he especially values in his job today. "Mathematics overcomes all cultural barriers," he says.
During his time in Nantes he met his wife, Bianca Santoro. After spending some good years together in the USA, the couple – both mathematicians – decided to set their sights on Germany … and were glad that they were both able to find positions at the University of Münster. Hans-Joachim Hein is delighted at the prospect of working in an environment of excellence. "Christoph Böhm and Burkhard Wilking are leading representatives in my field," he says. He wants to use the time and the freedom which the professorship offers him to tackle new research topics.
After a somewhat turbulent move from New York in the middle of the corona pandemic – they had to wait a long time for the ship’s container with all their removal boxes – the couple already feel very much at home in Münster. "We enjoy the slower pace of life here, as well as being so close to nature," he says.
Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Hein: personal website and contact information