UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Professor Christian Boehmer

Professor Christian Gerhard Boehmer is the new Head of Department of Mathematics.

Professor Christian Boehmer

1 December 2023

Fun fact: my full legal name is Christian Gerhard Glenister Boehmer, outside of academia I go by Glenister as people can pronounce it. As I started publishing before marrying, I kept Böhmer, technically with two dots above the o, but that is also hard to find on a keyboard!

When did you take up this position? What was your position beforehand?

I started as Head of Department since 1 Sep 2023, prior to this I was one of two graduate Admissions Tutors for Mathematics, a role I took up in spring 2017.

When did you join UCL and where were you before?

I joined UCL in the autumn of 2007 as a Teaching Fellow, initially on a nine-month contract and things have been going well for me since then. Before this, I was a post-doctoral Research Associate at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth. 

Tell us about your work at UCL - how do you spend your days, and what makes your role different to similar positions elsewhere?

Becoming Head of Department is a very steep learning curve. I am discovering different challenges, but an excellent handover has made things a lot easier. Mathematics is a large department with about 70 academic staff and 20 professional services staff and a substantial undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research student population. 

Most of my time I am reading and replying to emails which is broken up by various committee meetings or 1-to-1 meetings with colleagues. I also teach a large third year module taken by about 170 students. 

What are some of your favourite things about working at UCL? How have you found it different to previous jobs?

Many of UCL’s founding principles are still alive and seem to be ever-present in one way or another. This gives the whole institution a distinct character and, from my point view, is one of its best features. Our students are great, and I really enjoy my interactions with them.

Given the size of our student population, we are not dissimilar to a very small country. It has its own challenges and benefits, however, the whole of UCL adds up to a functioning place of work that produces excellent research and graduates well-educated students. 

After over 15 years at UCL I still discover new parts I have never seen before and this is quite exciting.

Can you tell us about any upcoming research, or future projects that you're looking forward to working on?

As a new Head of Department my time for research is currently going down. Once I am more settled into the role, I would like to keep some of my research active. 

Together with a student we completed a substantial programme about theories of gravity with unusual properties. Now that the foundations of this model are formulated, we are interested in studying its consequences in the areas of cosmology and gravitational waves among other ideas.

Together with the Department of Statistical Science we are working on a proposal regarding the Institute of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (IMSS) which we would like to see developed. This is an exciting project which, if approved, would transform mathematical sciences at UCL into a global powerhouse.

On the departmental level I am reviewing the management structure of the department, including all its committees, and how these fit into our faculty structure and UCL as a whole. It might not sound terribly exciting. However, minor changes made at the right place can have a surprisingly positive impact.

Have you always been based in London? If not, when did you move here, and how did you find adapting to living in London?

I grew up in Berlin to a single mother who was a Polish migrant. I studied physics at Potsdam University, spent one year as an Erasmus student at University College Dublin and then completed my degree in 2002. After a PhD in Vienna and a post-doc position in Zacatecas Mexico, I came to Portsmouth on the suggestion of a former adviser as one of the places to be. 

I have never lived in London as we are a family of five and this makes living in London rather challenging. UCL is close to several train stations so commuting was the best option for us. From time to time, it would be nice to be in London as social life in rural England also has its challenges. 

Finally, tell us about your non-work life. Do you have any hobbies, or favourite places to go in London?

I am a keen martial artist and have trained for around 30 years by now. I am engaged in a local Karate club in central Bedfordshire, Asahi Shotokan Karate, where I am one of several children’s instructors.