Prof. Dr. Jürgen Richter-Gebert
© Andreas Heddergott, Astrid Eckert / TUM
Munich professor receives award for dedicated communication on the subject of mathematics and geometry
This year’s Communicator Award goes to the mathematician Professor Jürgen Richter-Gebert. An expert in geometry and visualisation from the Technical University of Munich, Professor Richter-Gebert receives the award worth €50,000 for his versatility in communicating abstract mathematical content to make it visible, audible and comprehensible, enabling his audiences to engage in experimentation and research themselves.
The Communicator Award jury praised Richter-Gebert for more than 20 years of dedication and commitment to vividly conveying the power and beauty of mathematics to a range of different target groups in an innovative and diverse style. In their statement, the jury said he had developed a variety of formats that he constantly adapted to new requirements, including interactive apps, exhibitions, television programmes, performance workshops, games, digital learning content and visualisation software. Made up of science journalists, communication and PR experts and chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Julika Griem, the jury commended the untiring energy and imagination with which Richter-Gebert had repeatedly created new approaches to mathematics in varying social and aesthetic contexts.
Jürgen Richter-Gebert’s communication is outstanding in that he involves his target groups in differentiated ways, motivating them to experiment, design and explore on their own. He is a fascinating showman when presenting to large audiences, yet time and again he also seeks out opportunities to enable people to grasp mathematical concepts in their day-to-day lives in ways that are unspectacular yet highly effective. Richter-Gebert demonstrated this impressively last year when he made the most of the opportunities afforded by the pandemic: early on, he developed digital activities for families in lockdown to give children playful, low-threshold access to mathematics and physics. What is more, he made the most of the switch to digital teaching to put his experience as a science communicator to good use in developing high-quality teaching formats that are now publicly accessible and have the potential to make a lasting, broad-based impact. With this approach, so the jury statement goes on, this year’s award winner exemplifies the contribution science communication is capable of making in the current digital transformation which society is undergoing.
The jury also highlighted Richter-Gebert’s cooperation with younger colleagues as exemplary, as well as his commitment to involving and promoting the communication skills of early career researchers.
Jürgen Richter-Gebert obtained his doctorate at the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. His work then included appointments as a research assistant at the Zuse Institute Berlin and as a private lecturer at TU Berlin before he became an assistant professor at ETH Zurich after completing his postdoctoral lecturing qualification. Richter-Gebert has been a professor and chair at the Faculty of Mathematics at the Technical University of Munich since 2001. He has already received several awards, including the Ars Legendi Prize of the Stifterverband for excellent university teaching in 2011 and the MINT Ambassador of the Year award from the “MINT Zukunft schaffen” initiative in 2016.
Richter-Gebert is the founder and director of the mathematics exhibition “ix-quadrat” at TU Munich and co-author of the mathematics visualisation programme Cinderella (together with Ulrich Kortenkamp). He also runs the internet portal “Mathe-Vital”. Furthermore, he is significantly involved in the travelling exhibition “Imaginary”. The digital formats he has developed such as the free app “TUM Interaktiv” and “Maths to Touch” have been downloaded thousands of times, as has the digital edition of his book on fractions. The app “iOrnament”, available on the Apple Store, is one of the best of its kind available internationally in the field of mathematics.