They came from all parts of Switzerland and even from Northern Italy and filled the Auditorium Maximum in ETH Zurich’s main building to the last seat on Thursday: 400 secondary school students accepted Alessio Figalli's invitation and listened to his explanations on the mathematics of optimal transport. In a factual and sympathetic manner, Figalli explained the beauty and benefits of mathematics and answered numerous questions about his life and career.
Getting into mathematics is rigid, said Figalli, but over time it becomes very creative as with mathematical formulas one can understand the world better and learns how to develop new technologies.
“You don't have to be a genius to do mathematics,” said Figalli, referring to the blog of Terence Tao, another winner of the Fields Medal. He also said, "Science is a marathon, not a sprint." He once had to investigate a problem for years until he finally found the solution. He advised the students that they should best follow their interests. They left ETH with a lively impression of why mathematics can be exciting.