Prestige medal for young Stellenbosch University maths professor
The research excellence of a young Austrian mathematician working at Stellenbosch University, Prof Stephan Wagner, has been recognised by the Royal Society of South Africa with their prestigious Meiring Naude Medal.
Because of the high level of research produced by Prof Wagner, he was promoted to an associated professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University at the beginning of 2010 while still a extremely youthful 27 years of age.
He has already published nearly 50 peer-reviewed articles in numerous journals, and is a regular reviewer and referee for various mathematical journals.
Prof Wagner came to South Africa some four years ago, after completing his doctoral studies at the Graz University of Technology in Austria in 2006. He applied for a post as lecturer in mathematics at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University, without ever having visited the country before.
His spur-of-the-moment decision to come to South Africa seems to have paid off for this popular lecturer, who is described by his students as “a brilliant teacher”.
He has moved quite quickly through the academic ranks at Stellenbosch University thanks to his prolific publication record and impressive research abilities in the fields of combinatorics, number theory and graph theory.
Prof Wagner describes the field of combinatorics as being involved with “various counting problems”. “Such problems are of a purely mathematical interest,” he says, “but they also arise quite frequently in mathematical models stemming from physics and chemistry.”
As a scholar in Austria, Prof Wagner received various gold medals in his country’s Mathematical Olympiad, and also went on to win two silver medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Since moving to South Africa, he has become involved in local Olympiad activities as a member of the South African Mathematics Olympiad, which he sees as “the natural thing to do”.
One of his activities is that of organiser of the annual Stellenbosch mathematics training camp at Stellenbosch University, which helps to prepare high school learners from all over South Africa for the annual Olympiads