Moving to Austria to Do Mathematics

My name is Kirk Soodhalter. I am currently a research scientist at the Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics and a consultant mathematician at the firm Mathconsult in Linz, Austria. Prior to this, I worked for four years as an assistant professor in the Industrial Mathematics Institute at Johannes Kepler University in Linz. In May 2012, I received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Temple University in Philadelphia with a focus on numerical linear algebra. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, my CV was forwarded to a colleague in Linz. After a Skype-interview, I was offered the position at the Industrial Mathematics Institute. I sold most of my belongings in Philadelphia and moved in June 2012 to Linz, Austria.

Language and Culture in Austria

I must admit that I knew very little about the land to which I had moved, and I had never before visited Austria. The entirety of my preparation before moving was a colleague from Germany telling me that Austrians speak German with “an accent” and that I should eat something called “Kaiserschmarrn”. I have been in Austria for almost five years, and I can report that

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Kaiserschmarrn (Kaisaschmoan) is wonderful, and to say Austrian German is spoken with an accent does not do it justice. There is really a dialect (Mundart) continuum (including many highly local, regional words and expressions) one encounters when traveling around the country. As a newcomer, it was quite daunting, and the standard German I learned initially in a course was not always helpful. Despite this initial difficulty, getting to be

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familiar with the tapestry of dialects has been one of my favorite things about living here, and I would assert it has been essential in getting to know Austria beyond the superficial. I have been lucky to be surrounded by many patient people who were open to helping me learn. I have met so many good people here, including friends, colleagues, and even the people at the neighborhood grocery story.



Food in Austria

I have also been surrounded by a lot of great food: Wiener Schnitzel (Weana Schnitzl),

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Schweinsbraten (Bradl), Schweinshaxn, Hascheeknödel (Hasche-Knedl), Grammelknödel (Grami-Knedl), Germknödel (Geamknedl), and so many wonderful desserts. I learned rather quickly that a sweet, dessert-like meal for lunch (particularly during a hike or skiing) is completely acceptable and even encouraged. That’s when I realized this is a culture which shares my values.

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Outside of the office, I have also been able to take advantage of the beautiful landscape. Austria offers opportunities to bike along the Danube as well as either hike or ski in the mountains, depending on the season. This has led to many opportunities to enjoy an appropriate dessert-lunch.

Coming here for work has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  In a forthcoming post, I will continue by giving a short overview of my scientific work.