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uni'wissen 01-2014_ENG

requires a lot of mathematics, too theoretical. What she found fascinating was the idea of combining the two for practical applications. Computer science, she says, is one of the best fields of all: “I also always try to convey that to my students. They can combine computer science with any topic they want to, and after writing a successful program they always have a result that they can present and use” – such as robots, games, or route planners. Bast has been conducting research on this last topic for a number of years. She was already trying to work out possibilities for calculating routes more quickly while working on her habilitation thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken. Then, in the course of a year and a half of research at Google in Zurich, she developed the method now implemented in Google Maps that greatly speeds up route planning in public transportation networks. Programming Intelligent Search Engines However, the computer scientist also has another professional passion: intelligent search engines. “Look,” says Bast, and her fingers fly over the keys of her laptop. Shortly afterwards a long, mysterious-looking list appears on the screen. It is a summary of the search requests for a computer science literature database developed by Bast and her colleagues, the largest in the world. France, USA, Chile, Thailand, France, Korea, Mexico, Germany, Sweden – the requests stream in by the second. The database evidently sees heavy use by people from across the globe. “We planned and wrote the program for the database on our own. It’s amazing to see all the useful things you can do by programming.” In 2009, the mother of one daughter decided to accept an offer for a chair at the University of Freiburg. Was this a decision against Google and free enterprise? “In a way it was, because no private company can offer me the freedom I enjoy at the university. Here, no one comes along and tells me what I have to do.” In addition, Bast was attracted by Freiburg’s computer science program, which enjoys an excellent reputation in Germany and abroad, and also by the city itself, in which she feels quite at home. She likes to sit in her office until late at night brooding over new algorithms. Luckily she was also there when a student who had read “office hours, 10 to 11 p.m.” on her homepage appeared in her office shortly before half past ten. She told him she had meant that as a joke, because she finds it silly to keep office hours in the age of email and the internet. Who says computer scientists have no sense of humor? Further Reading Bast, H. / Delling, D. / Goldberg, A. V. /  Müller-Hannemann,M. / Pajor, T. / Sanders, P. / Wagner, D. / Werneck, R. F. (2014): Route planning in public transportation networks. http:/ / (= Microsoft Research Technical Report 2014 / 4). Bast, H. / Carlsson, E. / Eigenwillig, A. / Geis- berger, R. / Harrelson, C. / Raychev, V. / Viger, F. (2010): Fast routing in very large public trans- portation networks using transfer patterns. CSXWz2 (European Symposium on Algorithms 2010, extended online version). Bast, H. (2009): Car or public transport – two worlds. In: Albers, S. / Alt, H. / Näher, S. (Eds.): Efficient algorithms. Essays dedicated to Kurt Mehlhorn on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Berlin / Heidelberg, pp. 355–367. Prof. Dr. Hannah Bast studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Saarbrücken and went on to earn her PhD at the same institution. At the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken she led a research group from 2000 to 2007 and then spent two years as junior research group leader of the institute’s Cluster of Excellence. Afterwards, she spent one and a half years conducting research at Google in Zurich before coming to the University of Freiburg in 2009. Besides the award from Google, Bast has also received the Otto Hahn Medal from the Max Planck Society and the Alcatel-Lucent Technical Communication Research Prize for her work. Her research interests include intelligent search engines, route planners, and “ everything that leads to something that can be put to good use.” Photo: private Google Maps calculates routes in a fraction of a second – thanks in part to the research of Hannah Bast. Source: Google Maps 23