“Climbing is a bit like research but more relaxed“

Antoine Mottet is a new professor at TU Hamburg


Antoine Mottet is the new junior professor for Theoretical Computer Science / Theoretische Informatik. Photo: Tomáš Rubín
Antoine Mottet is the new junior professor for Theoretical Computer Science / Theoretische Informatik. Photo: Tomáš Rubín

To better understand Antoine Mottet’s work, let’s take a closer look at his hobby: As an avid climber, he hardly ever goes on a trip without a rope and harness. “Climbing is a bit like research but more relaxed”, he says. “You look at a cliff and try to ‘solve’ it, figure out how to climb it, without any pressure to do so. It’s all about pushing personal limits, not about showing results.” This habit explains Mottet’s work as a theoretical computer scientist quite well because in his work he focuses broadly on the complexity of answering questions. That sounds a bit tricky. In technical terms, his work is titeled “The complexity of computational problems.” He explains: “We all know that computers can solve many tasks better and faster than humans, not because they are necessarily ‘smart’ but simply because they are good at following instructions and computing”. However it requires skills to conceive programs solving particular tasks – such programs are called algorithms. In fact, for certain tasks, there is no efficient algorithm that solves them. “My work is to understand what distinguishes tasks that do have an efficient algorithm from the ones that do not”, Mottet says.

The intrinsic beauty of research

Theoretical computer science uses tools that are extremely abstract and not designed to solve concrete computer science problems. Mottet emphasizes: "I like working with the variety of tools that this field of research offers me. Moreover, there seem to be secrets of computing that we - humanity - have not yet unlocked. It is extremely rewarding to make progress in solving these mysteries." To describe his fascination with his field of research, he likes to quote the French philosopher Albert Camus: "Art is not a solitary festivity. It is a means of moving the greatest number of people." Mottet believes that the impact of his work is important, but he rather improves the world with the intrinsic beauty of his research itself.

Found suitable environment

Antoine Mottet has studied in Lyon and Paris and moved to Dresden for his doctoral studies. After graduating the hobby pianist has worked in Prague before he came to Hamburg. Mottet chose Hamburg University of Technology for a good reason: “I was at a point of my career where I wanted to have more contact with students, and have the possibility to shape and influence their curriculum the way that my curriculum was shaped by my professors. TU Hamburg is an excellent opportunity for me to do so, as the scientific and teaching environments are wide open.” 

TUHH - Public Relations Office
Elke Schulze
E-Mail: elke.schulze@tuhh.de