Photo Copyright: Noel Tovia Matoff, www.matoff.de
This is an EXCERPT of the interview from the catalogue "Women of Mathematics Throughout Europe, a Gallery of Portraits”, published in Verlag am Fluss 2016, infoverlag-am-fluss [dot] de, and featured among thirteen portraits in the corresponding exhibition http://womeninmath.net. See also the EWM newsarticle.
We would like to thank Sylvie Paycha, Sara Azzali, Alexandra Antoniouk, Magdalena Georgescu, and Noel Tovia Matoff for allowing us to use the interview excerpts. Moreover, we acknowledge the work of Veronica Corona and Joana Grah for editing the interview excerpts.
Did you come across obstacles in pursuing your career as a mathematician?
I believe a good mathematician is valued for his/her results. I am grateful for all the support I received throughout my career as a mathematician. Last year I was asked to help build up the PhD school at the University of Pécs in Southern Hungary, where I now work. It is the oldest University in Hungary (650 years old), but a separate Institute of Mathematics was set up only some fifteen years ago, so this project is a challenge for me. I have already found good candidates for the new PhD school. I also have students at the Eötvös University Budapest, where I have a nice office which I use to work with my foreign visitors.
I am grateful that my work is also appreciated internationally. I am a member of the Scientific Council of the International Banach Center in Warsaw, and of the Tbilisi International Center of Mathematics. Since 2012 I have been a member of the Executive Committee of the European Mathematical Society, an endeavour I like a lot. I also enjoy serving on Editorial Boards of different journals and book series, and evaluating proposals, promotions etc. from different countries.
I went through some difficult years, since my husband was not there during the academic year. I used to bring my children with me to conferences, where I got various reactions from the male participants, some of whom would comment that the presence of children would make the meeting more human. My children loved travelling with me, and my older daughter, who is now a geologist, still enjoys travelling in her job. But none of my children wanted to become a mathematician, having seen how busy both their parents were with their jobs.
In retrospect, are you happy to have chosen mathematics or do you have some regrets? For you, what are the joys of mathematics? What are the hardships?
I am very happy to have become a successful and respected mathematician. I enjoy struggling with new problems, discussing and implementing new ideas with my collaborators. Mathematics offers a common language across borders. It is a real joy.
Could you describe your favourite personal achievement in mathematics?
I am really happy about my results in algebraic deformation theory, being able to understand the notion of miniversal deformation and to work out a construction method. I have some surprising infinite dimensional Lie algebra examples and results, like the formal rigidity of the Witt and Virasoro algebra. But what I am most proud of is the success and joy I get both from doing mathematics and from my family; my husband and two children are essential to me.