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'I’m impressed by the mathematical history and general level of mathematical skills here in Moscow'

Bruno Bauwens, an expert in Kolmogorov complexity, is a new recruit at the HSE Faculty of Computer Science. He started in September 2015. Bruno received his PhD from Ghent University in Belgium, after which he held postdoctoral fellowships at Porto University (Portugal), as well as at the University of Montpellier and University of Lorraine. Associate Professor Bruno Bauwens spoke to HSE English News about his research and  about settling in to life and work in the international academic community in Moscow.

— What is your background?

— I studied physical engineering and mathematics in Ghent University in Belgium. I did some research in machine learning and then switched to theoretical computer science for my Phd. I had several post-doc positions in France and Portugal.

— Why did you decide to come to work in Moscow?

— My recent research has been focussed on algorithmic information theory. It is a theory about how to store information in its most compact but still computably decodable way. The research is theoretical, it centers around questions such as: can we give a mathematical definition of randomness and causality?

In Moscow, there is a huge interest in this topic. Basically, the research started here and the best experts are here too. In general, Russia has a strong reputation for theoretical computer science (and mathematics and theory in general).  When HSE offered me a position with focus on research and loads of freedom for the topic of research, I did not hesitate to accept it.

— How is living in an international environment going? What's difficult and what's exciting and rewarding?

— I've been living in foreign countries for almost 3 years. For me living abroad was never difficult. As long as I feel free to think about challenging theoretical problems, I'm happy.

I experience Moscow in a very similar way as Belgium. We also have a culture of faithful pessimism. I’m impressed by the mathematical history and general level of mathematical skills of PhD students here in Moscow and by the pedagogical talents of teachers at HSE 

HSE has a nice international faculty unit. In the beginning of the year they organize many activities to get us integrated and it is always fun to hang out with other international faculty and the coordinators. There are many high quality lectures and research seminars at HSE and in Moscow. Many of them are in English and in the few cases I went to a seminar in Russian, people decided to switch to English.  I'm really grateful for this effort. 

I experience Moscow in a very similar way as Belgium. We also have a culture of faithful pessimism. Of course, I’m impressed by the mathematical history and general level of mathematical skills of PhD students here in Moscow. I’m also impressed by the pedagogical talents of teachers at HSE. When I’m spying in the auditoria, I see there is often a lot of interaction between the teacher and the students, even when teaching abstract and complicated topics. In the Russian language lessons, there is loads of fun and laughing.

The exciting and difficult part for me is that I'm offered a lot of responsibility quickly (compared to post-doc positions): to manage diploma works, lecture to phd students, try to do innovative research, etc.  Information technology has changed the world fundamentally in the last 10 years, but education and research haven’t (at least in Europe). It is scary to decide what and how students should learn, if I cannot rely much on the past.

— Could you say a few words about your further plans?

— I’d like to switch research fields and study algorithms, combinatorics and machine learning. The publication demands seem reasonable so I believe I can survive such a change. In short, my plan is to learn many interesting things and work on challenging problems. But, that's everyone’s plan isn't it?

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service 

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Vladimir Gromov graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from the Faculty of Business Informatics. Completed his Masters on the Double Diploma programme at HSE and TU/e — Eindhoven Technical University.Currently lives in the Netherlands and works as a software engineer with UL Transaction Security.


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