"What is...?" Seminar Series


Here you can find information about the "What is...?" seminar series including past and future talks. Also you can watch video recordings of most of the talks online.
If you are interested in giving a talk, please contact Josué Tonelli Cueto or any of the other members of the organizing committee.

Next Talk

Past Talks

  • Click here for a list of all past and future "What is ...?" seminar talks

Video Recordings

  • Click here to see the video recordings online

What is a "What is ...?" Seminar?

A ~20-25-minutes talk that answers a concise mathematical question in a manner accessible to students and mathematicians not familiar with the field. Get to know the many different parts of mathematics in a relaxed and open environment. We offer you the opportunity to meet other graduate students from various fields while enhancing your general knowledge of mathematics. Our speakers are welcome to experiment in their talks and enjoy the friendly feedback from the audience.


  • Students of any subject studying in Berlin


  • Anybody (BA, MA, Diplom, PhD, BMS Phase I/II, Postdoc, non-academic) can speak at the "What is ...?" seminars

Information for Speakers

Generally, we ask our speakers to prepare at most a 20-25-min talk. We have a very casual atmosphere inviting many questions from the audience, so the 20 mins usually ends up becoming around 40 mins. We do ask that the talk be understandable to any math audience. The audience will consist of math undergraduate and graduate students from many different fields. The format of the talk is entirely up to you. We will be providing a blackboard/whiteboard and beamer. Let us know if you need a laptop or laser pointer/remote.
We also ask for a very short abstract for the talk. It can be as short as 2-3 sentences or as long as you like. You can find some examples from talks we've had in the past here.
This abstract we like to include in the invitation email which goes out on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the talk. So please try to send it to us roughly a week before the talk. And don't forget to include your title in the form of "What is ....?".

Where & When?

The "What is ...?" seminars are held at least every second Friday at 1pm. The location for the "What is ...?" seminars rotates between the BMS Loft at Urania, FU, TU, and HU.

BMS Loft

  • The BMS has a bi-weekly BMS Friday colloquium in the BMS Loft at Urania. The "What is ...?" seminars are held before the BMS Friday colloquium and usually complement the topic of the Friday talk.

Freie Universität

  • When the "What is ...?" seminar is held at the Freie Universität, it will take place in Arnimallee 6, SR 031.

Technische Universität

  • When the "What is ...?" seminar is held at the Technische Universität, it will usually take place in the BMS seminar room in MA 212.

Humboldt Universität

  • When the "What is ...?" seminar is held at the Humboldt Universität, it will take place in the BMS seminar room in RUD 25 1.023.

Credits for attending the "What is ...?" seminars

Obtaining credits for attending the "What is ...?" seminars is only possible for BMS students enrolled at FU or TU, after successfully passing the BMS Qualifying Exam. The BMS Office decides if the students gets the credits (upon their regular attendence) and helps them with the credit transfer. If you want to get credits for these event series, or if you need more information about this, please contact the BMS Office.

Organization & Contact

The "What is ...?" seminar is for students by students, organized by a committee that mainly consists of PhD students. The universities and professors do not control any aspect of our organization. We are very thankful for the support provided by the Berlin Mathematical School (BMS) (e.g., video equipment, seminar rooms, cookie & tea budget).
The committee members contribute to the seminar on a voluntary basis. They are responsible for scheduling the speakers, videotaping, processing and uploading the videos of the talks, and arranging for the food and beverages served at the seminars.
If you are interested in joining the committee or giving a talk, please contact one of the current members below. Please note that you do not have to be a BMS student to volunteer for the organizing committee.
If you are not a student at the FU, TU, HU, or the BMS, you can still register on our free Spline-Mailinglist to get updates about the seminar!

Actual members of the Organizing Committee

  • Josué Tonelli Cueto (TU) (since 2016)
  • Irem Portakal (FU) (since 2016)
  • Johanna Steinmeyer (FU) (since 2016)
  • András Tóbiás (TU) (since 2016)
  • Asilya Suleymanova (HU) (since 2016)
  • Qianheng Chen (since 2016)
  • Georg Lehner (since 2017)
  • Andrés Felipe Saldaña Torres (since 2017)

Former members of the Organizing Committee

  • Peter Krautzberger (Founder, 2008-2010)
  • Frederik von Heymann (Founder, 2008-2010)
  • Felix Breuer (Founder, 2008-2010)
  • Nathan Ilten (2009-2010)
  • Laura Hinsch (2009-2010)
  • Lars Petersen (2009-2010)
  • Hartwig Mayer (2010-2011)
  • Aaron Greicius (2010-2011)
  • Margarita Rutgayzer (2010-2011)
  • Emily King (2012-2013)
  • Anna von Pippich (2008-2013)
  • Anilatmaja Aryasomayajula (2012-2013)
  • Mimi Tsuruga (2009-2015)
  • Ugur Dogan (2013-2014)
  • Fei Ren (2015)
  • Barbara Jung (2011-2017)
  • Konstantin Poelke (2012-2017)
  • Giovanni de Gaetano (2013-2017)
  • Gregor Bruns (2014-2017)
  • Stefan Rüdrich (2014-2017)
  • Patrick Gelß (2015-2017)


Topic revision: r290 - 29 Apr 2017, AndrasTobias
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