Women in Science Profiles

Dr. Marjeta Kramar Fijavz

Mathematics and physics on one side and literature and fine arts on the other – these have been my favourite topics for as long as I can remember, although I never regarded the last two as possible choices for my future occupation. At the end of grammar school the exactness and logical thinking required in mathematics prevailed over the interest I had in physics and I decided to study applied mathematics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Ljubljana. I can honestly say that I have never regretted this decision. Although there was a university professor in my family, I never thought I would one day become one as well. I imagined that I would become an applied mathematician who does her work in a dynamic work environment and every day solves different problems of engineers. As a student I for some years participated in the activities organised by the society called Sezam. I held classes called Entertaining Mathematics and it was then that I discovered how much I liked teaching. Nevertheless, I was not particularly keen on working in a primary or secondary school.

By the time I had finished my BSc degree, I became more interested in continuing my formal education than finding the ideal place of employment. This is why I decided to work temporarily as a teacher trainee at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Ljubljana. At the same time I began my postgraduate studies in mathematics which were primarily focused on research. After I had successfully defended my MSc thesis, I was offered the position of an assistant. This is what I still do today and although teaching mathematics to future civil engineers is hard (because of the number of students and their general dislike of mathematics which most of them regard as a necessary evil), I perceive teaching as a challenge that I still enjoy. The results of my work can become visible more quickly and are in the short term more useful than those in the field of research. I must admit this often helped me to overcome the discouragement which I sometimes felt during the time when I was preparing my PhD thesis.

Before I finished my PhD degree, I spent a year in Germany. I was offered the position of a Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Mathematics established by the University of Tübingen. One of my responsibilities was to co-ordinate the international Internet seminar. Spending some time abroad was an interesting experience from which I learnt a lot – from the organisational and technical point of view as well as in terms of my personal development. At that time I finally gained confidence as a researcher in the field of mathematics.

Since I successfully defended my PhD degree, I have participated as a researcher in the programme group Algebraic Methods in the Operator Theory which was established by the Institute for Mathematics, Physics and Mechanics in Ljubljana. Besides that I have maintained contact with the Department of Functional Analysis at the University of Tübingen and some of its former members who are now scattered all around the world. Although mathematics is traditionally perceived as science in which most of the work is done individually, I myself believe that team work produces more results and gives us more satisfaction. Mutual visits and attendance at different conferences are at the same time the fulfillment of my wish to learn about foreign countries, people and customs.

I decided to become a mother only after I had received my PhD degree. My husband is a university professor as well and our work was until recently also our way of life. Now we have a daughter and at present I am on maternity leave. My life has changed and in about one year's time I will also be able to say how I manage to co-ordinate my research work and family responsibilities.

Women in Science Profiles