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.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Six Oxford Mathematicians win LMS prizes

Six Oxford Mathematicians are among the 2015 London Mathematical Society prizewinners. 

A Polya Prize was awarded to Professor Boris Zilber for his visionary contributions to model theory and its applications.

A Naylor Prize and Lectureship in Applied Mathematics was awarded to Professor Jon Chapman (pictured) for his outstanding contributions to modelling and methods development in applied mathematics.

Whitehead Prizes were awarded to the following:

Professor Peter Keevash for his work in combinatorics, in particular his stunning proof of the existence of combinatorial designs for all parameters satisfying the obvious necessary conditions, 

James Maynard for his spectacular results on gaps between prime numbers. He simplified and extended the work of Zhang on bounded gaps between primes, then made the most substantial advance on how large the gap between consecutive primes can be for 75 years, in particular answering a 10,000 dollar conjecture of Erdos.

Professor Mason Porter in recognition of his outstanding interdisciplinary contributions and in particular to the emerging field of network science, where he has combined unique analysis of biological, social and political data sets with novel methods for community detection and other forms of coarse graining.

Professor Dominic Vella for his spectacular contributions to the modelling of instability and interfacial phenomena in fluids and solids.

In addition an Anne Bennett Prize was awarded to Oxford Mathematics Visiting Fellow Apala Majumdar (University of Bath) in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the mathematics of liquid crystals and to the liquid crystal community.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Iain Smears wins Leslie Fox Prize

The 17th IMA Leslie Fox Prize in Numerical Analysis has been won by Oxford Mathematician Iain Smears, together with Alex Townsend from MIT. 

Iain has recently completed his DPhil under the supervision of Prof. Endre Süli in the Numerical Analysis Group in Oxford. His research is on computational algorithms for solving a class of highly nonlinear partial differential equations called Hamilton–Jacobi–Bellman equations. These equations arise in models of stochastic control that originate in a wide range of application areas, including engineering, finance and energy. He developed highly accurate and flexible methods for a broad class of these equations, thereby leading to significant gains in terms of computational efficiency over existing approaches. The results of his work are set out in two publications in SIAM Journal on Numerical Analysis, and one publication in Numerische Mathematik.
The prize is named in honour of Leslie Fox (1918-1992), Director of the Oxford University Computer Laboratory (1957-1983) and Professor of Numerical Analysis at Oxford University.
Alex Townsend is a former student of Nick Trefethen, Oxford Professor of Numerical Analysis. Second prizes were awarded to Patrick Farrell, who is currently at Oxford, and John W. Pearson, a former student of Andy Wathen in the Numerical Analysis Group at Oxford.
Friday, 26 June 2015

Departmental teaching awards announced

Congratulations to Oxford Mathematicians Dmitry Belyaev, Ian Hewitt, Derek Moulton, Christoph Reisinger, Zubin Siganporia (pictured), Robert Style, Nick Trefethen and Sarah Waters who have all won departmental teaching awards for the year.