"What is it that you like in mathematics?" ICM speakers answer the question...

Submitted by Insmi on Tue, 07/24/2018 - 09:26
LOGO ICM 2018"What is it that you like in mathematics?" "What does this congress mean to you?"
French mathematicians answered the questions for us.
Find out more by clicking on their names!
di francesco
Philippe Di Francesco

I like the excitement of discovering. The freedom. The interactions with other scientific disciplines. The generational mix. Teaching.

Fabio Toninelli

  I like feeling independent and free to choose my research subject, led by my own curiosity.

duminil copin
Hugo Duminil-Copin
© F. Imperiali / CNRS

Mathematics develop according to the inspirations of those who do maths, this discipline is therefore in constant evolution. I like this human factor. Nothing's worth discussing passionately with an author about one of his proofs to understand all its subtlety. As for me, I spend a lot of time sharing ideas with mathematicians from all over the world. I'm convinced that one has a personal touch in doing mathematics, so that bringing together mathematicians from various horizons with different training and life experiences is the perfect foundation for a far-reaching mathematical project. Each person, at his of her level, with his or her proper originality, will bring the necessary concepts to solve the problem. It is vital to feed on such multiple experience, as it is what carries us all together at some point we would never have reached on our own.

Catherine Goldstein


I like the freedom, the multiplicity of legimate things to do, friendship, travelling. Maths in so many forms.


What I like most in mathematics is the feeling I am travelling on unknown grounds, led by my sole intuition, and catching hold of certainties. I am never so happy as when I can spend a whole day making calculation and watching how it all somehow could start to take shape. Then comes the brief moment where all the elements of the puzzle suddenly fall in the right place, and one gets the global, essential vision of the problem, but I prefer the pure exploratory phase.                     

                                                                                                                                                                 Olivier Schiffmann 

Maria Esteban
© D. Goupy et M. Esteban

I enjoy the freedom of organizing my resarch, of picking my work subjects, of enter into collaborations with researchers from other universities and countries. The very 'social' dimension of our job is truly important. It is vital to know what's going on elsewhere and, to keep up-to-date, we never fail to read the works of other researchers, to attend congresses which sometimes take us to lovely places, and we strive to meet and discuss with other mathematicians or scientists whose approach complements ours.  In doing so, we frequently make friends and good ones too, and it is twice the pleasure to work with friends.

Raphaël Krikorian

Firstly, what I like is to do mathematics. There is this beautiful construction of the thought which is never fixed, where each concept, even the most abstract one, finds an echoe in the real world, in daily life. There is the pleasure of searching: to be in the black, not knowing where to start, to track down a relevant element, to explore unfruitful leads, and sometimes (rarely) the enlightening understandings. It's also sharing, exchanging, passing on, teaching & being taught whether by colleagues or by students.

Sébastien Gouëzel

There are those moments where you're thouroughly focused on a precise question that you absolutely want to understand, and you explored it and chewed and gnawed it in so many ways that you're certain to know intimately all its aspects, yet without managing to solve it. And sometimes, you get a glimpse of a fresh viewpoint, almost per chance. It looks weird to begin with, often naive, yet you immediately know that it is the missing key, which will fit in with all the classical techniques to solve the problem. It will still require a lot of time, of work, of trial and error, of persistence too, but the most difficult part is behind you.

Pierre Degond

I like the blank page moment: when I start tackling a new question without the slightest idea how I'm going to deal with it. What I also like is the interaction with other researchers, particularly the younger ones. I enjoy sharing with them the moments of discovery. It's like a cake: you don't want to taste it on your own.

Krzysztof Kurdyka


I like understanding things (which does not happen every day!). I like watching mathematical facts as one sees real objects. I also enjoy developping concepts and languages which enable me to sum up a mathematical idea in only just three lines.


Stefanie Petermichl

I particularly like the aspect of solving fundamental problems and discovering connections between different disciplines.

Dmitri Chelkak

I like the philosopher/craftsman dualism. It's absolutely great when a new beautiful structure arises and you can easily explain why it is natural and fundamental. But you need to work on details too: carefully elaborate the demonstrations of the "technical" lemna which will constitute a well-adapted theory which shall be used in different situations. That part, to me, is analysis.

Josselin Garnier

I like the liberty and the diversity of the challenges which are thrown down at me or which I take up. Whether it be for teaching or research, I need to be under strain to give the best of myself. That's why I regularly change places, teaching at university, or in grandes écoles (and there are so many differences between students at Ecole normale supérieure and student from Ecole polytechnique!) I try to explore new themes, which enables me to attend conferences where no one knows me, so that each time I have the feeling I'm back at the time when I was a student... The conference in Rio will be a little different from this point of view, but it will be a real challenge to present a good part of my recent works to the entire mathematical community.

Bassam Fayad

What I like today in being a researcher is the freedom to work on what seems interesting and important to me, it's the excitement of being obsessed with one beautiful problem, and all the better if it gets anywhere, but it's worth it even though it doesn't. It's the joy of finding, of understanding thanks to someone or explaining to someonne, it's the relationship to students, and above all, being in a position to - having to! - stay curious of everything.

Jean Bernard Lasserre

First of all I would say: the almost total freedom you enjoy when a researcher at the CNRS, in maths as well as in other disciplines. That freedom, to me, is the essential condition to carry out thouroughly a long and hard work. Secondly, what in my domain attracts me most is to enlighten (and if possible, thanks to a "unifying" theory) the links between apparently different problems. If on top of it, that theory enables you to elaborate new tools (such as algorithms for instance) to actually solve those problems, that's the icing on the cake!


Fundamental problems in mathematics and computer science are enthralling nature: once you get caught up, you're drawn in, and the more you explore, the richer and the more fascinating it becomes. Moreover, thanks to the CNRS, I enjoy a great freedom. What I lack is a couple of livres to solve all the problems that I find attractive.   Joris van der Hoeven

serge cantat
Serge Cantat

I like the back-an-fro movement between frustration or a sense of insatisfaction, and understanding and clarity. I like observing shaggy constructions progressively take shape and potentially grow into a relevant structure. I like the human adventure and the intellectual challenge.



Emmanuel Trelat

I enjoy the freedom we have in choosing whaterver research subject. That freedom should be spared, at any price! As to me, I very much appreciate to work on subjects stemming from real problems or from other scientific disciplines. I thouroughly admire the wreath of mathematics, which can solve so very different problems. It makes us, mathematicians, collaborate and interact with so many people. There's no way you can get bored! And what fun...


Pierre-Emmanuel Jabin

First, I like mathematics for themselves and for the fact that they play a key, transverse part in contributing to various questions in many other scientific disciplines. One is also free to choose one's research subjects according to whatever we find fascinating and to explore questions and leads that seem to us more promising of more exciting.


Fanny Kassel

It is so lucky to be able to live one's passion, and I'm happy to be able to do my job with the freedom that the CNRS gives us. I particularly appreciate the international dimension of our profession and the many possibilities of exchange and collaborations with my colleagues from France and abroad. Some of them become longterm co-authors or friends. They sometimes teach me to discover other ways of approaching mathematics, or even life.

Clément Mouhot

I enjoy, somehow as a child does, solving enigmas after months or even years of inquiry. I like the feeling of participating in an adventure which exceeds oneself and which is meaningful. I also like the social ways of mathematics: an international community which is motivated by something nobler than money, career or nationalism. I'm fascinated by the fact that sciences feed on mathematics, which places mathematics at a crossroads. It means more than just efficient or marketable applications: thinking mathematically strongly influences sciences, notably social sciences.