Articles| Stanislav and Martin Mach: Two mathematicians...

Stanislav and Martin Mach: Two mathematicians from one nest

3. September 2015 - Instinkt Mathematics is nicknamed the queen of science. There is no question that it rules in the Mach brothers’ lives. Problems and equations have fascinated them for many years. Their desire to find more about the secrets of this discipline has guided them to prestigious British universities. The brothers are also making their dream in the world of numbers and fractions come true thanks to the financial support they receive from The Kellner Family Foundation.

When the words mathematician and physicist are uttered, people usually imagine an oddball like Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Does this character have anything in common with reality?
Martin: This is only a stereotype, and one that I have always tried to avoid.
Standa: Studying hard sciences always leaves a mark on you. When you constantly use logical and analytical thinking, it changes you. You then function in the spirit of the proverb ‘look before you leap’ even in everyday life.

Does any specific situation occur to you?
Standa: In me, this is manifest in my desire to think through everything in detail beforehand, and prepare myself for all possible options; I usually take five minutes or so in seclusion somewhere to do this. It doesn’t matter whether I am writing an article or making dinner; what is important is to have a plan.

I can see that the life of a mathematician is not easy. Standa, you have already logged three years at the University of Warwick. What is the difference between studying in the Czech Republic and in England?
Standa: While in this country you go to school to collect knowledge, they go to university to mature. Studying there is more concentrated. They also have extracurricular clubs for various activities such as chess, theater etc., in which everybody takes part. Thanks to this, people learn to communicate in a team. They have a much stronger focus on job and career there; they keep instilling in you all the time that you have to be aware that you will be looking for a job in a few years’ time.

Have you yourselves been thinking about your future job?
Standa: Options for work are wide open. Math is not a specific field; rather, it is a tool that can be used almost everywhere.
Martin: I am not sure about my vocation. But there’s no point in making decisions too early. Perhaps research could be interesting for me.

Martin, you are facing your very first days at Oxford. Any concerns?
Martin: I quite look forward to it. It is a bit more challenging period, but you shouldn’t be too stressed out by this. It certainly will not be easy.
Standa: He doesn’t know what it will be like and I am not going to spoil the surprise. It is perhaps possible to impart some experience, but the magic lies in the person beating the path on their own. I will probably leave him to drift on his own for a bit. A large part of what studying abroad gives you is the ability to cope and manage.

Why have both of you decided to go to school in England?
Standa: At high school, both of us participated in an exchange stay in England. For me, this was a taste that really whetted my appetite. Ever since then, I knew that I would like to spend all my school years there.
Martin: During that stay I found that they have a different view of math there. It is taken as a natural science or a technical discipline in the Czech Republic. In England, math is perceived as a humanity. This inspired me, and it was also the reason for me to return there.

Why, then, Warwick and Oxford?
Standa:  I knew that I wanted to do math. I looked at the university rankings and applied to the best five. And got admitted to Warwick. (Martin): I had an impression that at Oxford, I could find a suitable environment to help me not to lose my insight into the humanities. In addition, there is supposed to be a strong Czech-Slovak community there.

What kind of fun do students at such prestigious schools have?
Standa: The culture of partying from Friday night to Sunday morning also prevails there. But that is not for me – I have school, and so I work hard. I unwind through sport; I bike to school all year round. I leave all the problems on campus, and before I fall asleep, I read anything non-math for a while.
Martin: I still cannot say from my own experience but I read somewhere that mathematicians socialize a lot because they need to share information and procedures. They are said to be some of the most social types at universities.
Standa: Really? Are you sure?
Martin: Well, at least I read it.

And what about mathematicians’ time for girls?
Martin: This is related to the Sheldon Cooper stereotype. Mathematicians can be entirely normal men – it’s not a mental illness. (Standa): And also, if they did not have the time, they would have died out a long time ago.

Were you top students at school?
Martin: Rather close to the top. But we definitely did not get Ds.
Standa: Our mom, a math teacher, saw to that.

How much does it actually cost to study in Britain?
Standa: School fees are 9,000 pounds per year, but students from the EU can take a loan from the U.K. government. Both of us have loans; this means in principle that once you graduate and start to earn money, you pay higher taxes. Then the cost of living; with a bit of moderation in your life, they amount to CZK 200,000 to 300,000. It would be very taxing without support from Mr. and Mrs. Kellners’ foundation.

Stanislav (23) and Martin (20) Mach
Both of the brothers graduated from Gymnázium Jana Keplera [The Johannes Kepler Grammar School] in Prague. Standa has been taking math at the University of Warwick since 2012. In addition to math, he likes programming, sport, yoga, playing guitar, and chess. Martin will start to study math at Oxford University in the fall. He also likes computer graphics, yoga, and reading novels.
Photo | AMONG THE BEST. Oxford and Warwick universities are among the most prestigious in Britain. The Mach brothers both succeeded in getting in. The family foundation of Mr. and Mrs. Kellner is helping them cope with the costs of living related to their studies.

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