Julia Plavnik, an assistant professor of mathematics at IU, recently received the Humboldt Fellowship, a lifelong network of 60 to 70 selected researchers that provide resources such as sponsorships and research institutions and encourage collaboration.
The Humboldt Research Fellowship, developed by the Humboldt Foundation, provides recipients with resources they need to conduct their research at any German institution of their choosing for 18 months. They offer two different fellowships catered towards different applicants: postdoctoral or experienced researchers.
Plavnik serves as the principal investigator for the Simons Collaboration on Global Categorical Symmetries, faculty adviser of the Women in Math Club and is involved in the IU Quantum Science and Engineering Center and the Peer Mentoring Initiative.
“As an organization dedicated to uplifting underrepresented individuals in mathematics, she's definitely an inspiration to all of us,” Brooke Augustine, IU senior and co-vice president of the Women in Math Club, said. “Having a successful and recognized adviser serves as a reminder that the impostor syndrome is simply the voice in the back of your head.”
The Women in Math Club at IU is an organization that builds community in the math department by hosting or volunteering at social events and aims to make math fun for children.
Additionally, Plavnik was recently a Kovener Teaching Fellow for two years and a recipient of the Center of Excellence for Women & Technology 2022 Outstanding Faculty Mentor/Advocates. She was given a grant from the National Science Foundation, or NFS, from 2018 to 2022 to study quantum symmetries including tensor categories, braids and Hopf algebras. The NSF awarded Plavnik another grant until 2027 to study cohomology, classification and constructions of tensor categories.
“She’s an outstanding contributor to all aspects of our mission: research, teaching and service and support in mathematics,” IU mathematics chair Kevin Pilgrim said. “She has been recognized in multiple dimensions with nearly a million dollars in grant funds but also for her dedication to teaching undergraduates. That kind of multidimensional commitment is something that we can all aspire to.”
Plavnik’s research focuses on quantum symmetries while primarily concentrating on its algebraic aspects. According to her website, she says her main interest revolves around the mathematical foundation of topological phases of matters.
“We plan to work on a project which aims at embedding a construction from algebra into the setting of topological field theories,” Universität Hamburg mathematics professor Christoph Schweigert said. “This project combines Julia’s and my expertise perfectly.”
Since 2019, Universität Hamburg is one of Germany’s 10 federal excellence universities. The German Research Foundation funded four different “clusters of excellence,” one of them being quantum universe. It combines physicists and mathematicians to research a better understanding of nature at its most fundamental level and how mathematical theories can explain that. Schweigert will be hosting Plavnik at Universität Hamburg and working in this cluster.
“I think Hamburg is one of the best places to work on different aspects of quantum symmetries and I feel privileged with this opportunity,” Plavnik said. “One thing that I find especially appealing about the Humboldt Fellowship and Foundations is that they focus on research excellence, but this is not a one-time opportunity. You belong to their network and that brings many new opportunities for the fellow, but also people around.”
Plavnik plans to split her fellowship into three visits, one per year for the next three