News

Monday, 6 June 2016

Oxford Mathematics awarded Regius Professorship for the Queen's 90th birthday

The Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford has been awarded a new Regius Professorship as part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.

Twelve new Regius Professorships – rare, sovereign-granted titles recognising the most outstanding levels of research in their fields – were awarded to leading British universities to mark the milestone. This is the first time since 1842 that Oxford has been awarded a Regius Professorship.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said: "2016 is proving to be quite a year for the Mathematical Institute at Oxford, with the Abel Prize presented to Sir Andrew Wiles and Nigel Hitchin recently announced as Shaw Prize laureate. Being awarded a Regius Professorship in Mathematics is wonderful news for the University and another mark of distinction for Oxford Mathematics."

Professor Martin Bridson, Head of the Mathematical Institute at Oxford, said: "This is a special moment in the history of Oxford Mathematics. The award of this Regius Professorship is a wonderful recognition of all that we have achieved and of the exciting future that lies before us.

A noteworthy feature of the award is that it recognises both our pre-eminence in fundamental research and the enormous benefits that flow to society from mathematics. Progress at the frontiers of science and technology has always made great demands of mathematics, and today it reaches more deeply than ever into the core of the discipline. Oxford is proud of the way in which it embraces the power of this interaction."

Until now, only 14 Regius Professorships had been granted since the reign of Queen Victoria, including 12 to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As in 2012, recipients of new Regius Professorships have been selected by open competition, judged by an independent panel of business and academic experts.

Each institution will assign the title to an existing professor in the chosen department or will appoint a new professor to take the chair and hold the title.

John Penrose, Minister for Constitution, said: "It is a privilege and an honour to announce these new Regius Professorships in recognition of the truly outstanding work of our universities and as a fitting tribute to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. The 12 institutions can consider themselves truly deserving of this great honour."

In the past, Regius Professorships were created when a university chair was founded or endowed by a royal patron. Previously, they were limited to a handful of the ancient universities of the United Kingdom and Ireland, namely Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Trinity College, Dublin.

Announced in the government’s Productivity Plan in July, the new Regius Professorships will celebrate the increasingly important role of academic research in driving growth and improving productivity over the past 90 years.

The creation of Regius Professorships falls under the Royal Prerogative, and each appointment is approved by the monarch on ministerial advice.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: "I am passionate about promoting science and economic growth right across the country. That’s why I promised to push for prestigious new Regius Professorships, not just in London and Oxbridge but in other great centres of learning, including the Northern Powerhouse, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I’m delighted that promise is being honoured today."

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: "The success of our economy is underpinned by the exceptional science and research taking place in our world-leading universities up and down the country, and I’m delighted these 12 institutions have been recognised for their achievements. We’ll continue to make sure pioneering science is recognised and supported to help improve the lives of millions across the country and beyond."

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Nigel Hitchin wins the Shaw Prize

Professor Nigel Hitchin FRSSavilian Professor of Geometry in the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford has won the prestigious Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences for, in the words of the Prize Foundation "his far-reaching contributions to geometry, representation theory and theoretical physics. The fundamental and elegant concepts and techniques that he has introduced have had wide impact and are of lasting importance."

Professor Frances Kirwan FRS, a colleague in Oxford, paid tribute: "Nigel Hitchin has made fundamental contributions to the fields of differential and algebraic geometry and richly deserves the award of the Shaw Prize. His work has influenced a wide range of areas in geometry and mathematical physics, including symplectic and hyperkähler geometry, the theory of instanton and monopole equations, twistor theory, integrable systems, Higgs bundles, Einstein metrics and mirror symmetry."

Professor Martin Bridson FRS, Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford, said: "'it is a real joy to see Nigel Hitchin's profound and influential work recognised by the award of the 2016 Shaw Prize. His inspiring intellectual leadership in geometry has been matched throughout his career by many services to the mathematical community in the UK and across the world, for which we are all deeply grateful. Oxford has been extremely fortunate to have Nigel with us for so much of his career, and we are very proud of him."

Nigel said on news of the award: "I am delighted and honoured to be awarded this prize. Since most of my working life has been spent in Oxford, it is also a recognition of the support I have received here. I was pleased to note that my “twin” in New College, the Savilian Professor of Astronomy, won the Shaw prize a few years ago.”

The Shaw Prize is an annual award first presented by the Shaw Prize Foundation in 2004. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong it honours living individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and who have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances, who have made outstanding contributions in academic and scientific research or applications, or who in other domains have achieved excellence. The 2016 prize is worth US$1.2m to each winner.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Zubin Siganporia wins Outstanding Tutor award

Congratulations to Oxford Mathematics' Zubin Siganporia who has won the award for Outstanding Tutor for the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division in the 2016 Oxford University Student Union Student Led Teaching Awards.

 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Andrew Wiles presented with the Abel Prize in Oslo

The work of Oxford University Professor Sir Andrew Wiles was celebrated as having 'heralded a new era in number theory' as he received the top international prize for mathematics. 

Sir Andrew received the 2016 Abel Prize from Crown Prince Hakon of Norway at the prize ceremony in Oslo on 24 May. He was awarded the prize 'for his stunning proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, opening a new era in number theory'.

The ceremony at the University Aula was attended by more than 400 guests, from members of the international mathematics community to local residents. 

Professor Ole Sejersted, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which presents the Abel Prize, said: 'Mathematicians have tried to prove Fermat's Last Theorem for 350 years, without success, indicating that mathematicians regard this as one of the great mathematical puzzles.

'The Abel Committee says that Sir Andrew's work has heralded a new era in number theory. To me, this indicates that the work on the theorem required the development of an entirely new mathematical foundation, the significance of which goes far beyond the actual proving of the theorem.'

Accepting the prize, Sir Andrew Wiles said: 'As a ten-year-old eager to explore mathematics I rummaged in the popular mathematics section of my local public library and found a copy of a book called The Last Problem by E.T. Bell. I did not even have to open the book. On the bright yellow front cover it told the story of the 1907 Wolfskehl prize offered for the solution of a famous mathematical problem. The problem itself was on the back cover. I was hooked.

'It was a wonderful find for me. Apparently inside mathematics there was hidden treasure! A little over 300 years previously a Frenchman by the name of Pierre de Fermat had solved a beautiful sounding problem, but he had buried the proof and now there was a prize for finding it!

'Fermat did not leave any clues because he did not have a solution, but nature itself leaves clues. I just had to find them. There was never going to be a one-line proof. Nor do proofs come just because one has been born with mathematical perfect pitch. There is no such thing. One has to spend years mastering the problem so that it becomes second nature. Then, and only then, after years of preparation is one's intuition so strong that the answer can come in a flash.

'These eureka moments are what a mathematician lives for; the bursts of creativity that are all the more precious for the years of hard work that go into them. The moment in the morning of September 1994 when I resolved my last problem is a moment I will never forget.'

Fermat's Last Theorem had been widely regarded by many mathematicians as seemingly intractable. First formulated by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, it states:

There are no whole number solutions to the equation xn + yn = zn  when n is greater than 2, unless xyz=0.

Fermat himself claimed to have found a proof for the theorem but said that the margin of the text he was making notes on was not wide enough to contain it. After seven years of intense study in private at Princeton University, Sir Andrew announced he had found a proof in 1993, combining three complex mathematical fields – modular forms, elliptic curves and Galois representations.

Sir Andrew not only solved the long-standing puzzle of the theorem, but in doing so he created entirely new directions in mathematics, which have proved invaluable to other scientists in the years since his discovery. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters said in its citation: 'Few results have as rich a mathematical history and as dramatic a proof as Fermat's Last Theorem.'

The Abel Prize is named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802-29) and was established in 2001 to recognize pioneering scientific achievements in mathematics. Abel himself did some of the early work on the properties of elliptical functions. Previous winners of the Prize include Britain's Sir Michael Atiyah and the late US mathematician John Nash.

Accompanying the prize-giving ceremony is a series of 'Abel week' activities aimed particularly at young people, including the awarding of the Holcombe Memorial Prize for an outstanding teacher of mathematics and the UngeAbel contest for teams of secondary pupils. This year's winning teacher and young winners were in the audience for the Abel Prize ceremony. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Three Oxford Mathematicians elected Fellows of the Royal Society

Congratulations to Oxford Mathematicians Martin Bridson, Marcus du Sautoy and Artur Ekert who have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society. Martin is Whitehead Professor of Pure Mathematics, a Fellow of Magdalen College and Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford. He has been elected for his many distinguished contributions to group theory and topology. Marcus is Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Fellow of New College and has been elected for his outstanding achievements in promoting the understanding of science and mathematics to a global audience and for eminent research that has completely transformed the study of zeta functions of groups. Artur is Professor of Quantum Physics at the Mathematical Institute and a Fellow of Merton College.  Artur has been elected FRS for his work on quantum physics, quantum computation and cryptography.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Jake Taylor King wins Lee Segel Prize

Oxford Mathematician Jake Taylor King has won the Lee Segel Prize for Best Student Paper for his paper 'From birds to bacteria: Generalised velocity jump processes with resting states.' Jake worked on his research with Professor Jon Chapman. The prize is awarded annually by the Society for Mathematical Biology. One of Jake's co-authors on the paper, Gabs Rosser, previously also studied Mathematics at Oxford in the Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Linus Schumacher wins Reinhart Heinrich Doctoral Thesis Award

Oxford Mathematician Linus Schumacher has won the prestigious Reinhart Heinrich Doctoral Thesis Award. The award is presented annually to the student submitting the best doctoral thesis in any area of Mathematical and Theoretical Biology. 

In the judges' view "Linus' thesis is an outstanding example of how mathematical modelling and analysis that is kept close to the experimental system can contribute efficiently to advance the understanding of complex biological questions. The roles of cellular heterogeneity, microenvironmental cues and cell-to-cell interactions, which are common themes in the study of biomedical systems, are skillfully dissected and analysed in relevant experimental model systems, leading to significant advances in the current understanding of said systems."

The judges concluded: "the modelling aims to derive generic, theoretical insights from specific, biological questions. The work has led to a number of excellent publications."

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Endre Suli and Xunyu Zhou elected SIAM Fellows

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) has announced that Professors Xunyu Zhou and Endre Suli from Oxford Mathematics are among its newly elected Fellows for 2016.

SIAM exists to ensure the strongest interactions between mathematics and other scientific and technological communities through membership activities, publication of journals and books, and conferences.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Sunday, 12 July 2015

Marcus du Sautoy made Doctor of Science of the University of South Wales

Oxford Mathematician and Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Marcus du Sautoy, has received the award of Doctor of Science of the University of South Wales for his outstanding research record in mathematics and his exceptional contribution to the promotion of the public understanding of mathematics and science. He will receive the award on 13th July 2015.

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