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Olga Holtz

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Prof. Dr.

Olga Holtz

Professor of Numerical Mathematics at the Institute for Mathematics at the Technische Universität Berlin.
(Photo: TU Berlin/Press Office, Uli Dahl)

“Berlin is a great city for mathematicians,” explains Olga Holtz. And she should know: Holtz is a leading, Russian-born math researcher who has been working for the past three years as a professor in the field of numerical mathematics at the Technische Universität Berlin.

It hasn’t been easy for this young scientist to tie herself down to only one city. Indeed, Holtz is actually a big fan of change and variety. After beginning her studies in Chelyabinsk, Russia, she transferred to the University of Wisconsin in the United States. In 2000, she received her doctorate there in mathematics and stayed on to perform research at the Institute for Computer Sciences. In 2002, she made her first stop in Berlin with the help of a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. While in Berlin, she worked at the Technische Universität Berlin. After one year in the German capital, she returned to the United States to become an assistant professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

Winning the Prize & Choosing Berlin

In 2006, Olga Holtz experienced the biggest success of her career thus far, winning the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation‘s Sofia Kovalevskaja Award, one of the highest endowed research awards in the world. She now had over €1 million available to her for her research. The money helped the then 33-year-old to hire team members without too much bureaucracy and also to create a working group, acquire equipment and pay travel costs. The only thing Holtz had to decide was where she wanted to perform her research in the future: she chose the Technische Universität Berlin. And yet, she hasn’t turned her back completely on Berkeley, where she continues to teach and perform research.

Berkeley and Berlin – Olga Holtz feels at home at both research locations. Why did she choose Germany’s capital city to carry out her research as part of the Sofia-Kovalevskaja award? “There are so many excellent math institutions and mathematicians here,” she notes. “There’s the DFG Research Center ‘Matheon’ for Applied Mathematics, the Konrad Zuse Institute and other research institutions such as the Weierstraß Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics. And, of course, you also have the major universities of Berlin.”

Olga Holtz’ enthusiasm for Berlin’s science landscape has already paid off: in 2008, she and her research team received the European Mathematical Society Award, which is handed out to young talent every four years at the European Mathematicians Congress. In August 2010, she also received a Starting Grant worth €880,000 from the European Research Council (ERC) – support funding from the European Union for her new project in pure mathematics.

“Many challenging industrial tasks can only be solved with the help of math”

The things that fascinate Olga Holtz about Berlin aren’t limited to science and math. She finds the productive exchange with industry just as exciting:  “Matheon, for example, shows very convincingly that many challenging industrial tasks are best solved – and sometimes only solved – with the help of good math.” Her research group cooperates with engineers, electricians, biologists and chemists.


Olga Holtz herself focuses mainly on applied mathematics. She performs research into the processing of large amounts of data, for example, in the fields of airplane and pharmaceutical development, in the aerospace industry, in architecture and in the building of mobile networks. The ultimate goal of her work is to accelerate computer calculations. In order to achieve this goal, Holtz develops mathematical methods that function reliably and quickly. 

Berlin – A City for Young Scientists

And how does this exceptional young scientist see the future? “It’s totally open,” she says. “I’m just happy to be able to take advantage of the excellent research opportunities in Berlin. But maybe I’ll go abroad again.” Until then, Holtz is going to enjoy Berlin, a city for which she has a great optimism. “I hope that Berlin will continue to develop even further as a center for mathematics. The city has so much to offer – especially for young scientists.”

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