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Marcel Oliver

Professor of Mathematics


Research I, 107

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Mathematics at Jacobs University

Mathematics encompasses a broad range of topics, ranging from the beauty and satisfaction of pure thought (in areas such as algebra, complex analysis, geometry or topology) to the usefulness of practical applications which is no less satisfying (for example, when improving signal and image processing using wavelets, or modeling fluid using partial differential equations). Often enough, the purest of mathematics finds intriguing practical applications in surprising ways (number theory is used heavily in cryptography, wavelets and dynamical systems are at work in engineering, mathematical game theory has won a Nobel prize in economics, etc).

The Mathematics Curriculum

The mathematics curriculum at Jacobs University has been designed with a number of key features in mind:

  • Flexibility: strong students can move ahead at their pace
  • Choice: cater for students with different interests and backgrounds
  • Solidity: assure that students master the core knowledge expected of any mathematics graduate
  • Compatibility: with strong international graduate programs
  • Challenge: for strong students
  • Coherence: courses are designed by content and interdependence so as to form a coherent education, not as isolated units
  • Breadth: graduates have acquired an overview of mathematical areas and perspectives beyond core courses
  • Transdisciplinarity: students take electives throughout the school of Engineering and Science, HSS courses and University Studies Courses
Depending on their previous educational system, age, and background, strong incoming mathematics students can have very different levels of preparation. Therefore, we offer at least two main entry-points into our undergraduate program, with a number of possible intermediate and even stronger variants.

The regular variant of the curriculum is suitable for entering students without a lot of training in formal mathematics in high school and for students who are undecided between several majors. Regular variant students will begin their their study taking GENERAL MATHEMATICS AND COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE. This module provides an introduction to key concepts such as formal reasoning and proofs, and an overview of important areas in mathematics. It is usually taken together with introductory courses in two other subjects, and students can choose at the end of the first year which major to pursue.

The advanced variant of our curriculum is designed for particularly well-prepared students who enter the program often with experience of mathematical olympiads and competitions or with a specialized mathematics education at their high schools. These students begin with courses in ANALYSIS and LINEAR ALGEBRA (formally comparable to introductory classes at German universities, or second/third-year classes at North American universities, but at a relatively demanding level). Students following the advanced variant of the curriculum typically take specialized courses in their second year, and a mix of specialized and graduate level courses in their third year.

We offer our students individual advising between the various variants our curriculum offers, and students are generally very happy about the individualized possibilities. Some students, upon personal advice, have taken even more advanced classes in their first years. In other words, to attract the strongest students in mathematics, Jacobs University offers an education which picks them up where they are, and which offers challenges at all levels. These challenges may consist of particularly strong or advanced classes, of particularly interesting problems within regular classes, of competitions and olympiads on campus or at an international level, or in contact early on with the research groups of the faculty, including work on open research problems.

A particular feature of the mathematics undergraduate curriculum is that students should obtain a broad fundamental education in mathematics which gives them an overview of mathematics, including directions of current mathematical research in several areas and relations between various subjects, rather than specialized education in particular areas of mathematics. Consequently, undergraduate courses are broad in content and emphasize cross-relations, rather than as sequences of ever-more specialized classes. In addition, the courses PERSPECTIVES OF MATHEMATICS offer links and visions on areas not usually found in general introductory classes, and students are encouraged to engage in supervised research from early on.

The requirements for all variants of our curriculum ensure that graduates are well prepared for continuing their studies in mathematics graduate programs at leading universities world-wide. At the very minimum, graduates will be ready for the standard beginning mathematics courses for graduate programs at leading North American universities (graduate level Real and Complex Analysis, Algebra, Topology); similarly, in the French system, students will be prepared to enroll in DEA programs.

Many of our former undergraduates who went to these leading programs reported that they were better prepared by their education at Jacobs than their fellow graduate students. Others have joined industry or business and started successful non-academic careers right after their Bachelor degrees.

Study abroad

While the mathematics program is self-contained, we encourage our students to spend a semester or a year abroad, and students have accepted these options (Paris/Orsay, Rice, etc). Through personal advising and our flexible curriculum we ensure on-time graduation of students who study abroad. Personal faculty contacts with a number of institutions ensure that semester abroad students find a good education abroad.

Career Options

The mathematics curriculum at Jacobs University is designed to prepare students for work towards a Ph.D. in the strongest graduate programs worldwide: a head start into an international career in academic research. At the same time, graduates have acquired skills such as abstract reasoning, logical thinking and endurance which are well sought after by non-academic employers. Consequently, mathematicians enjoy a large and growing choice of top jobs even outside of the university world, for example in research and development, finance, banking, and management. All our program alumni have found rewarding and interesting occupations in a large variety of options.


Last updated 2014-08-07, 18:04. © Jacobs University Bremen. All rights reserved. Data Privacy Statement/Datenschutzerklärung