The Canadian science journalist and author Siobhan Roberts was the HITS “Journalist in Residence” 2020. Siobhan Roberts has worked as a freelance journalist with a focus on mathematics and science since 2001. She writes regularly for The New York Times “Science Times,” and has contributed to The New Yorker’s science and tech blog “Elements,” The Walrus, Quanta and The Guardian, among other publications. Moreover, she is the author of two biographies on mathematicians: “King of Infinite Space” on Donald Coxeter, and “Genius at Play” on John Horton Conway. She earned multiple awards for her work, among them the Euler Book Prize from Mathematical Association of America.
Siobhan Roberts arrived at HITS in mid-September 2020. In spite of the Corona crisis, she was able to meet with HITS researchers from different groups on several occasions, be it online or “in real life.” Her goal was to increase her fluency with data-driven research and to explore opportunities for data journalism. Roberts also worked on her current book project, a biography of the Swiss-American/Canadian mathematical logician and group theorist Verena Huber-Dyson.
Siobhan Roberts offered HITS researchers an online writing workshop in November, which was fully booked. Due to the pandemic, there were only rare occasions to visit the numerous university- and extramural research institutes in Heidelberg; however, Roberts gave an online public talk named “Embracing the Uncertainties” in January 2021 that marked the end of her stay (see the video of her talk on the HITS YouTube channel)
About her stay at the institute she says: “HITS is that rare place where you can buckle down and make progress on a big project, while at once expanding your reportorial horizons in all sorts of new directions. And the hilly forest provides the perfect escape to contemplate and process it all, and map a path forward.”
The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.