Episode published: 11/02/22
In episode #37 of Living Proof, Dan Aspel and Christie Marr are joined by Professor Franca Hoffmann of the University of Bonn.
Professor Hoffmann has spent much of the past decade working with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, its Quantum Leap Africa initiative, and a host of other groups and NGOs across the African continent, all focused on the support and pursuit of higher mathematics. And yet, in her own words, she’s still “very junior” at her home institution herself. So how did she – whilst still an undergraduate – find such mutually beneficial opportunities working far from home across numerous cultures? And how could those in a similar position follow her footsteps and unlock new possibilities for themselves and others? Franca’s story answers these questions and more.
00:00 – Introduction
01:44 – Welcome (“when I was at high school, I didn’t think of myself as a mathematician at all… I just wanted to study everything”)
04:50 – Discussing the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (“AIMS has enabled me to balance my passions in a very beautiful way”)
06:14 – (note: same building, not same room!)
10:25 – (note: the NGO was not entirely run by Ghanaians, but by people based in Ghana of various nationalities)
12:40 – How it began: “One day I got a message on Facebook saying ‘hey, do you want to come teach math in Africa?’”
17:20 – “The best thing is not to let yourself get confused with stereotypes. It is possible to put together a job that suits you. Any opportunity that allows you to discover where your strengths and passion are is great.”
20:40 – “Who that I know in Germany would get up at 4am to go to a math lecture?… I want to be able to share the opportunities that I have to people who are really deserving of them”
21:40 – Discussing Quantum Leap Africa
26:30 – “I’m still very junior in my career myself, so AIMS stepping up to me and saying ‘we’d like you to take care of this Doctorate training programme was a big step”
29:14 – Being a torchbearer (literally) for Imperial College at the 2012 London Olympics (“I thought it was spam, so I deleted the email!”)
32:08 – (note: the military veteran was Jaco Van Gass, who lost his left arm, part of his left leg and sustaining severe internal injuries in Afghanistan – not all four of his major limbs as said in this podcast)
36:50 – Impressions of INI programmes, interactions with other participants, the value of in-person conversation
Dan Aspel and Christie Marr speak to Professor Franca Hoffmann, who has spent much of the past decade working with mathematical initiatives across the African continent.
Subscribe for the latest updates on events and news
INI is a creative collaborative space which is occupied by up to fifty-five mathematical scientists at any one time (and many more when there is a workshop). Some of them may not have met before and others may not realise the relevance of other research to their own work.
INI is especially important as a forum where early-career researchers meet senior colleagues and form networks that last a lifetime.
Here you can learn about all activities past, present and future, watch live seminars and submit your own proposals for research programmes.
Within this section of the website you should find all the information required to arrange and plan your visit to the Institute. If you have any further questions, or are unable to find the information you require, please get in touch with the relevant staff member or our Reception team via our contact pages.
INI and its programme participants produce a range of publications to communicate information about activities and events, publish research outcomes, and document case studies which are written for a non-technical audience. You will find access to them all in this section.
The Isaac Newton Institute aims to maximise the benefit of its scientific programmes to the UK mathematical science community in a variety of ways.
Whether spreading research opportunities through its network of correspondents, offering summer schools to early career researchers, or hosting public-facing lectures through events such as the Cambridge Festival, there is always a great deal of activity to catch up on.
Find out about all of these endeavours in this section of the site.
There are various ways to keep up-to-date with current events and happenings at the Isaac Newton Institute. As detailed via the menu links within this section, our output covers social media streams, news articles, a regular podcast series, an online newsletter, and more detailed documents produced throughout the year.
“A world famous place for research in the mathematical sciences with a reputation for efficient management and a warm welcome for visitors”
The Isaac Newton Institute is a national and international visitor research institute. It runs research programmes on selected themes in mathematics and the mathematical sciences with applications over a wide range of science and technology. It attracts leading mathematical scientists from the UK and overseas to interact in research over an extended period.
INI has a vital national role, building on many strengths that already exist in UK universities, aiming to generate a new vitality through stimulating and nurturing research throughout the country.During each scientific programme new collaborations are made and ideas and expertise are exchanged and catalysed through lectures, seminars and informal interaction, which the INI building has been designed specifically to encourage.
For INI’s knowledge exchange arm, please see the Newton Gateway to Mathematics.
The Institute depends upon donations, as well as research grants, to support the world class research undertaken by participants in its programmes.
Fundraising activities are supported by a Development Board comprising leading figures in academia, industry and commerce.
Visit this section to learn more about how you could play a part in supporting INI’s groundbreaking research.
In this section you can find contact information, staff lists, maps and details of how to find INI’s main building in Cambridge.
Our administrative staff can help you with any queries regarding a prospective or planned visit. If you would like to discuss a proposed a research programme or other event, our senior management team will be happy to help.