CIMAT is the Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas, the centre for mathematical research. It is located in Guanajuato, México, and constitutes one of the research centres sponsored by CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, national science and technology council).
In a country like México, centres such as CIMAT are few and far between. Until a year ago when I decided myself to come here for a Master's, I had no idea that a place like this existed, much less that it could be of such high calibre. The faculty currently consists of about 70 researchers with research interests broadly categorised as pure mathematics, applied mathematics, probability and statistics, software engineering, and computer science. A more specific breakdown of the research activities is as follows:
- Pure mathematics
- Applied Mathematics
- Probability and Statitics
- Computer Science
Besides pure research activities, CIMAT also has a pedagogical role in shaping graduate students at the Master's and PhD levels in each of its research areas, provides mathematics to industries that may need it (a recent achievement of the statistics and CS folks was to improve the tequila production of the Sauza distilleries), and promotes mathematics at a popular level in schools and in society in general.
More Bare Facts
CIMAT boasts the second largest mathematical library in México, something for which its administrators keep fighting for, and hence why they always try to secure the library budget from CONACyT (the largest mathematical library in México is in the UNAM in México City). Eighty percent of its researchers are in the national excellency programme for researchers, which grants admission based on the rate of publications and citations that researchers have acquired. In other words, research is well, alive, and healthy at CIMAT.
Although there are nominally some enrollment fees and tuitions for its students, the reality is that virtually all of the graduate students enrolled here have a government scholarship from CONACyT that covers tuition and living expenses, contingent on their academic performance. In other words, no loafing around from students, since losing the scholarship is equivalent to being expelled, as most students could not cover tuition and living expenses without it.
Throughout the year, there are frequent congresses, workshops, symposia, and other academic events with invited speakers from around the world, with an average of one or two per month. Last year, 2005, was CIMAT's 25th anniversary, and in celebration the rate of such events almost doubled. CIMAT's guests are most frequently housed in the CIMATEL (CIMAT-Hotel), which was CIMAT's original campus before the new one was built next to what was once the world's largest silver mine, La Valenciana.
Most students and researchers are Mexican or naturalised Mexicans. Our most recent addition of naturalised foreigners is Vladimir Boltyanski, a true eminence of Russian mathematics, but relatively obscure in the Western world. Other American or European nationalities are also represented. I have met people from Colombia, Uruguay, Perú, the Netherlands, the United States, Israel, Cuba, and Brazil. Of course, people from all the country can also be found here, which also adds a bit to our cultural diversity, because México is a large country and its peoples are many.
CIMAT also unofficially manages the undergrad mathematics programme for the local university, Universidad de Guanajuato, which is the best undergraduate programme I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Officially, the FAMAT (Facultad de Matemáticas, mathematics department) is a separate administrative entity from CIMAT, but the reality is that all of its professors are also faculty members of CIMAT, and its campus is adjacent to the CIMAT campus. The undergrad students often take very advanced courses in their third and fourth years, which is possible thanks to the efforts of CIMAT in recruiting talented and promising future mathematicians from the mathematical olympiad rounds held in México.
Some personal comments
This is my school for now, and like I said earlier, I am surprised that such a place exists in México. It almost seems much too good to be true. It is in Guanajuato, a student town par excellence with a diverse and lively cultural climate. Not only that, but the school itself is pretty, sitting atop a mountain overlooking Guanajuato. From my cubicle, I have a breathtaking view of mountains, skies, and a town down below. The facilities are very well-kept, since presumably CONACyT provides enough funding for maintenance costs. Founded only in 1980, CIMAT is a very young school, and I'm surprised to see how it has managed to grow in such a short time span.
Interesting areas of mathematical research are present in CIMAT, with the notable omissions of number theory and mathematical logic. At least both of these are pursued elsewhere in México, at UNAM's own mathematics department. Also, its computer science divisions seems a bit different from the departments I've seen at other research centres, since the one here seems to concentrate exclusively on engineering applications, at the expense of theoretical computer science, which is understandable since most of the researchers working on computer science here come from an engineering background. In general, it seems that CIMAT concentrates on a few things, but does them well. This is always preferrable to doing many things but none well, of course.
One of the things that pleases me the most about this school is seeing how not only people from different cultural backgrounds can be found here, but also people from different social levels can be found here. Mathematics is for everyone, and anyone who can work hard is welcome to stay, regardless of your income levels, who your parents are, or what your last name is. In a highly stratified society like México's, it is a very pleasing change to see economical barriers overcome by CIMAT's policies and CONACyT's funding.
I like my school, and I'm happy to be here.
A node sponsored by the Noderissima 2006 coalition