The decision to embark on a stay abroad was the combined result of my wish for personal development and sheer necessity. During and after my doctoral thesis I filled a temporary position which folded as soon as the person I stood in for returned. Other positions in FWF projects were always limited to a few years, and so I decided to apply for an Erwin-Schrödinger Fellowship in February 2006.
Place of Research
I chose Tel Aviv University as my place of research because Israel holds great appeal for me as one of the centres of my discipline and because I already knew the co-operation partners Professor Jonathan Aaronson and Professor Eli Glasner. The fact that it was close to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was an added incentive, although, due to the different character of the two cities, I chose Tel Aviv as my workplace and residence for the time being. I was able to keep my research post even after the Schrödinger fellowship expired, and I am currently funded by Professor Aaronson’s research grant from the Israeli Academy of Sciences.
There was one striking difference to my previous working environments: a large number of colleagues from the same discipline who were interested in and appreciative of my work. My research area (topological dynamics) is hardly to be found in Austria, and the only remaining co-operation partner in the country dropped mathematical research a number of months ago, probably because there are no employment prospects in Austria.
The main ideas were the ones I brought with me in my proposal, although it was impossible to know beforehand what the results would be. A considerable portion of mathematical research consists of testing assumptions, and as this process may take a long time and involve many setbacks it requires an appropriate environment and adequate interlocutors. These conditions were fulfilled in Tel Aviv, and so I was able to achieve all the goals I had identified in my proposal despite a forced interruption due to illness. The next steps are already set out as far as my scientific objectives are concerned, but the practical conditions are still completely unclear: I am considering applying for an FWF salary as an independent researcher, but under no circumstances will I work at a research institution governed by the Austrian University Act of 2002 (UG2002), since the provisions governing successive contracts are – in my opinion – to the detriment of people working under such contracts. Hence, I will probably stay abroad or follow the example of my colleague and switch to another discipline.
There can be no doubt that religion plays a much greater role in everyday life here in Tel Aviv than in other places I know. There is a notable absence of public transport during the Sabbath, and even though it seems a little absurd I am more strongly affected by this than my local colleagues, since they simply take their cars whenever public transport is not an option. Other aspects worth noting are the security situation and the rather remarkable level of hostility from neighbouring countries, even if there has been no serious incident in Tel Aviv during my stay.