Finalist of the category:
Outstanding Academic in Slovakia

Igor Podlubný

Applied mathematics

„We want our students to feel the joy of discovering new knowledge and surpassing themselves when studying mathematics.“

Prof. RNDr. Igor Podlubný, DrSc., is one of the world’s best applied mathematicians. He works at the Institute of Control and Informatisation of Production Processes of the Faculty of Mining, Ecology, Process Control and Geotechnologies at the Technical University of Košice. His research focuses on fractional derivatives and integrals, and their application in natural sciences and engineering. He regularly lectures on this topic at universities in the US, Mexico, China, Spain, and other countries.

Professor Podlubný likes to explain his area of interest using a numbers analogy: “Whole numbers are not sufficient in real life and that’s why we also use fractions and irrational numbers. As rational and irrational numbers fill in the gaps between whole numbers, so fractional derivatives and integrals fill in the gaps between repeated differentiations and repeated integrations,” this respected applied mathematician says. In the past, fractional derivatives and integrals were considered to be rather exotic. Nowadays, they are widely used tools to model dynamic processes and systems.

According to the database of the American Mathematical Society, his monograph “Fractional Differential Equations” is the most cited mathematical book during the period from 2012 to 2022. It is also the most cited scientific work of all time in Slovakia. Professor Podlubný has also other important and frequently cited works on solving fractional differential equations, researching fractional dynamic systems and controllers, as well as on geometric and physical interpretations. According to the Web of Science database, his works have been cited by experts from over 140 fields.

Professor Podlubný teaches his students that mathematics is a means to understand the world, and a language for efficient science-engineering communication. He has long been involved in innovation and modernisation of academic education using modern information and communication technologies and software for scientific calculations and simulations. For several years now, he has been teaching mathematics using MATLAB software and he points out: “To understand mathematical objects and terms, it is important to visualise them.” His teaching know-how includes taking an individual approach to every student in a large group. “We offer them important challenges and small projects, which help them find joy in discovering new knowledge and creating their own ways of solving mathematical problems. This reinforces the experience of surpassing themselves,” Professor Podlubný says. His door is always open to eager students.

Professor Podlubný comes from Ukraine. He first took a liking to mathematics when he was a child thanks to mathematical books and articles by a well-known populariser of science, Martin Gardner. Since then, he has been convinced that mathematics is fun and understandable, and that is the basis of his lectures and talks at conferences.

Mathematics and music are interconnected through various symmetries and proportions and so it comes as no surprise that composing and recording his own pieces are integral parts of Professor Podlubný’s life. His creativity was further proven by the recent exhibition “Computer-Generated and Human-Interpreted”, which consisted of graphical outputs generated by his program written in MATLAB.

Professor Podlubný can be found not only at his desk but also on the basketball court, at the swimming pool, and even at competitions such as the Košice Night Run and the annual Košice Peace Marathon.

“I think it’s impossible to be a truly good teacher without being in close contact with scientific research. For a teacher to be able to pass their knowledge on to students, the teacher needs a much wider range of knowledge and deeper scientific understanding of his field,” Professor Podlubný adds.