Universiteit Leiden

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Hermen Jan Hupkes appointed professor of Non-linear Analysis

From 1 August, Hermen Jan Hupkes has been appointed Professor of Non-Linear Analysis at the Mathematical Institute. 'Initially I don't think that much will change,' Hupkes says. 'My research and supervising future researchers will continue as before.'

Hupkes is a real Leidener. His career at Leiden University started already back in 1998: 'I came here for physics,' Hupkes says, 'but gradually I became more interested in mathematics. That's where I also did my PhD.' Even two postdoc periods in the United States could not keep him away from mathematics in Leiden. He has been on the Faculty since 2012.

The world is not straightforward

And now Hupkes became Professor of Non-Linear Analysis. But what does that mean exactly? 'The ironic thing is that I spend most of my time working on linear theory,' he says. 'But the real world is never as straightforward as we like to see it on paper. It is actually these non-linear effects that cause the most interesting behaviour. Because on the one hand, they can cause chaotic behaviour, but on the other hand, they also make it possible to create patterns.'

Always inspired by nature

'The systems we look at are always inspired by things we see in nature,' Hupkes explains. ‘You can find waves on the beach, and see spirals everywhere in nature. We try to understand what happens to those shapes when you take into account that the world isn’t perfect. What happens to your analysis when you add noise to it?’

Researching this noise is very interesting, according to Hupkes. 'Noise can slow down or speed up waves, for example. It can destabilise stable situations or, on the contrary, stabilise unstable situations. Therefore, it can cause sudden transitions between different types of behaviour.’

The one-on-one interaction is most important

Hupkes' field of research is not an easy one. That is why he really values the one-on-one interaction with his students and fellow researchers. 'Individual coaching of students and PhD candidates is what I like most about my job,' he says. 'Showing them how they can apply what they have learned in the lecture hall to (theoretical) practice. It's great to find something you're both excited about.'

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