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In this Master's specialisation, mathematicians working in areas pertinent to (theoretical) computer science, like algebra and logic, and theoretical computer scientists, working in areas as formal methods and theorem proving, have joined forces to establish a specialisation in the Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science. The programme is unique in the Netherlands and will be built on the excellence of both research institutes and the successful collaborations therein.
The emphasis of the Master's is on a combination of a genuine theoretical and up-to-date foundation in the pertinent mathematical subjects combined with an equally genuine and up-to-date training in key aspects of theoretical computer science. For this reason, the mathematics courses in this curriculum concentrate on
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1.A completed Bachelor's degree in Mathematics or Computer Science
2.A proficiency in English (Non-native speakers of English* without a Dutch Bachelor's degree or VWO diploma need one of the following):
a.A TOEFL score of ≥575 (paper based) or ≥90 (internet based)
b.An IELTS score of ≥6.5
c.Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) with a mark of C or higher
€2,143 (from EEA countries); €12,645 (from non-EEA countries)
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After getting a double BSc in Physics and Mathematics, Tim was looking for a challenge. "Initially, I considered physics, but gradually I got more and more interested in Maths. I'm really fascinated by pure mathematics and understanding physics in a mathematical sense. So I chose to do an MSc in Mathematical Physics."
Tim, now in the second year of his Master's programme, has started working on his thesis. "I'm trying to find a new method for geometric quantization of the Kepler gravitational two-body problem (in case you don't know, Kepler was a German astronomer who lived around 1600 who described the orbits of planets). We want to calculate the spectrum of the hydrogen atom using both analysis and geometry.
Although complex computations are often done by computers, Tim also enjoys low-tech problem solving. "The elegance of maths is that you can work on solving a complex problem without any aids. I just use paper and pencil - I don't need anything else. The beauty is also that, once a statement has been proved, there's no longer any discussion about whether or not it's true."
Tim appreciates the small scale of the Maths MSc programme in Nijmegen and the accessibility of the professors. "I meet regularly with my supervisor to make sure I'm still on the right track, but other than that, I work on my own. It's kind of cool to do your own research. I also like the national MSc programme that's open to students from all Dutch universities. The courses are taught by national experts in different areas of mathematics."
"I still need to finish a few courses," he says, "but I now know that my real passion is research. Some of my fellow students intend to apply their knowledge in other areas, but I hope to be able to continue doing maths research as a PhD student. I think that's the best way to keep in touch with new developments in this fascinating field."
Frank: "I wasn't entirely sure whether I wanted to carry on studying. I generally prefer practical work, but my curiosity got the better of me. I registered at the university and gave myself six months to see if this was for me. After this period, I decided to stay on and I gradually felt more and more at home. Computing Science is such an exciting subject - it's constantly evolving."
Willem had completed two internships during his four years of study, but he felt that he was not ready to start working full-time yet. "The Master's programme is great. It's so different from what we did before. There's a lot of freedom here, everything is small-scale and it's easy to interact with the professors. Most of the courses are not standard, and some of the professors even change the content of their courses halfway through if they notice that the students' interest is moving in a different direction." Frank: "They encourage us to get off the beaten track, both in education and in research. In fact, it's basically up to you to decide what to do."
For their Master's research, Frank and Willem started working on the static structure of the Internet. "With research you never know where it will lead," says Frank. "I ended up focusing on web communities and the way in which you can see which sites belong together on the basis of their structure. I analyse these clusters and monitor them, in order to see how they evolve. This could be of interest to advertisers, for example."
Willem took a different path. He looked at optimising interest in websites. "When people position their site on the Web, they want to know where it will generate most interest. I devised a way of ranking this interest, so that people can optimise their location and thus optimise the volume of traffic to their site. Initially, I didn't expect that my research would attract so much attention. But, when I submitted an article based on my Master's thesis to the International Conference on the Theory of Information Retrieval, which was organised by Microsoft Research and Cambridge University, it was accepted. Microsoft and co-sponsor Yahoo are now very interested in my work. It's great when your ideas catch on, and you get serious interest from some of the biggest companies in the world."
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