Monday, 19 October 2020

Heather Harrington wins Leverhulme Prize

Oxford Mathematician Heather Harrington has won one of this year's prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prizes. The award recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising.

Heather certainly fits that bill. She has already won the Whitehead and Adams prizes for her work which covers a range of topics in applied mathematics, including algebraic systems biology, inverse problems, computational biology, and information processing in biological and chemical systems. Heather is the Co-Director of the Centre for Topological Data Analysis in Oxford.

Heather said of the award: I'm really humbled and honoured to have received this prize. My research is only possible through extensive collaborative networks, and I'm very grateful to my collaborators. I am hoping the prize funds can go towards exploring new research ideas as well as supporting students interested in research careers at the interface between pure and applied mathematics.

Each of the 30 Prize Winners receives £100,000 which can be used over two or three years to advance their research.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Roger Penrose joint winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics

The 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their work on black holes. Oxford Mathematician Penrose is cited “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.”

Mike Giles, Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford, said "We are absolutely delighted for Roger - it is a wonderful recognition of his ground-breaking contributions to mathematical physics."

Roger himself said: "It is a huge honour to receive this Prize. In 1964 the existence of Black Holes was not properly appreciated. Since then they have become of increased importance in our understanding of the Universe and I believe this could increase in unexpected ways in the future."

Sir Roger Penrose is famous for his many contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. In 1965 with his ground-breaking paper "Gravitational Collapse and Space-Time Singularities" he predicted the existence of black holes, astronomical objects so dense that the geometry of space-time becomes singular inside them and not even light can escape their gravitational attraction. This remains, to this day, one of the most astonishing consequences of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and we now see that they do exist in nature.

Roger also pioneered the development of the mathematical theory that describes the structure of space-time and, together with Stephen Hawking, he developed singularity theorems that form the basis of the modern theory of black holes.  In parallel, he developed twistor theory as an approach to the quantization of space-time and gravity. It has since become a powerful tool across mathematics and has more recently impacted on physics in the form of 'twistor-string theory' as a tool for calculating scattering amplitudes for collider experiments. It is still actively pursued as an approach to quantum gravity.

He has made many other scientific contributions that, despite their recreational origin, have nevertheless had Nobel prize winning impact.  His quasi-periodic tilings have a crystallographically forbidden 5-fold symmetry. These have not only inspired much mathematical research, but were subsequently discovered by Schechtman in 1984 to be realised in quasi-crystals that can be made in the laboratory. Roger Penrose, together with his father, was the originator of Escher's famous and iconic impossible pictures. His theory of spin networks in his Adam's prize essay has become one of the pillars of 'loop quantum gravity' and now has a worldwide following. Amongst his most cited papers is the theory of generalised inverses of matrices that have applications from statistics through to engineering.

Another particularly influential strand has been his work on the foundations of quantum mechanics, both on realistic models of wave function collapse, and on time asymmetry therein and its relation to that in thermodynamics and in the big bang versus gravitational collapse. His early work in the ‘70s and ‘80s laid the foundations of what is now a worldwide endeavour.

Last, but not least, his books on popular science have provided a benchmark for how to engage with the layperson without trivialising the science.

Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics and a fellow of Wadham College in Oxford

Below are pictures from the Swedish Embassy in London where Roger was presented with his Nobel medal and diploma by the Swedish Ambassador on 8 December 2020.

In 2018 Roger Penrose gave an Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture where he outlined his latest thinking on Cosmology and in an interview with Hannah Fry talked about his career and how he wasn't always so far ahead of the game, especially when it came to arithmetic. The video is below the pictures.


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Richard Wade and Erik Panzer awarded Royal Society University Research Fellowships

Oxford Mathematicians Richard Wade and Erik Panzer have been awarded Royal Society University Research Fellowships for 2020. The Research Fellowship scheme was established to identify outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields and provide them with the opportunity to build an independent research career.

Ric's main research area is geometric group theory, particularly the study of free groups and their automorphisms. He's interested in invariants of groups coming from topology (like cohomology) and rigidity problems. He also looks at trees and their deformation spaces.

Erik's research interests cover the mathematics of perturbative quantum (field) theory, in particular Feynman integrals, deformation quantization and resummation.


Friday, 7 August 2020

James Maynard elected to Academia Europaea

Oxford Mathematicians James Maynard has been elected to Academia Europaea. He joins 13 other Oxford Mathematicians in the Academy which boasts 4000 members and 70 Nobel laureates. The Academy seeks the advancement and propagation of excellence in scholarship in the humanities, law, the economic, social, and political sciences, mathematics, medicine, and all branches of natural and technological sciences anywhere in the world for the public benefit and for the advancement of the education of the public of all ages in the aforesaid subjects in Europe.

Still only 33, James Maynard is one of the brightest stars in world mathematics at the moment, having made dramatic advances in analytic number theory in recent years. A recent interview in Quanta Magazine delves in to James's work and his thinking.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Bryan Birch awarded the Royal Society's Sylvester Medal for 2020

Oxford Mathematician Bryan Birch has been awarded the Royal Society's Sylvester Medal for 2020 for his work in driving the theory of elliptic curves through the Birch--Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture and the theory of Heegner points. The Birch--Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture is one of the Clay Mathematics Institute Millennium Problems.

The Sylvester Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding researcher in the field of mathematics. The award was created in memory of the mathematician James Joseph Sylvester FRS who was Savilian Professor of Geometry at the University of Oxford in the 1880s. It was first awarded in 1901. The medal is of bronze, is now awarded annually and is accompanied by a gift of £2,000. 

Bryan Birch was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where as a doctoral student he proved Birch's theorem, one of the results to come out of the Hardy–Littlewood circle method; it shows that odd-degree rational forms in a large enough set of variables must have zeroes.

He then worked with Peter Swinnerton-Dyer on computations relating to the Hasse–Weil L-functions of elliptic curves. They formulated their conjecture relating the rank of an elliptic curve to the order of a certain zero of an L-function; it has been an influence on the development of number theory since the mid 1960s. They later introduced modular symbols. 

In later work he contributed to algebraic K-theory (Birch–Tate conjecture). He then formulated ideas on the role of Heegner points (he had been one of those reconsidering Kurt Heegner's original work, on the class number one problem, which had not initially gained acceptance). Birch put together the context in which the Gross–Zagier theorem was proved. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1972; was awarded the Senior Whitehead Prize in 1993 and the De Morgan Medal in 2007. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Martin Bridson and Endre Suli elected to Academia Europaea

Oxford Mathematicians Martin Bridson and Endre Suli have been elected to Academia Europaea. The Academy seeks the advancement and propagation of excellence in scholarship in the humanities, law, the economic, social, and political sciences, mathematics, medicine, and all branches of natural and technological sciences anywhere in the world for the public benefit and for the advancement of the education of the public of all ages in the aforesaid subjects in Europe.

Martin is Whitehead Professor of Pure Mathematics in Oxford. His research interests lie in geometric group theory, low-dimensional topology, and spaces of non-positive curvature. He is also President of the Clay Mathematics Institute, a Fellow of Magdalen College and a former Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford.

Endre is Professor of Numerical Analyisis and a Fellow of Worcester College. His research interests include the mathematical and numerical analysis of nonlinear partial differential equations, and finite element methods.


Friday, 17 July 2020

Cristiana De Filippis awarded Gioacchino Iapichino prize by the Italian National Academy

Oxford Mathematician Cristiana De Filippis has been awarded this year’s Gioacchino Iapichino prize in Mathematical Analysis by the Italian National Academy, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. The prize recognises outstanding contributions to the field by early-career mathematicians.

Cristiana has been a postgraduate student in the Oxford Centre for Nonlinear PDEs for the past 4 years and successfully defended her DPhil thesis in June 2020. Her research interests include the Calculus of Variations and Regularity Theory.


Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Andrea Mondino awarded a Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society

Oxford Mathematician Andrea Mondino has been awarded a Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society (LMS) in recognition of his contributions to geometric analysis in differential and metric settings and in particular for his central part in the development of the theory of metric measure spaces with Ricci curvature lower bounds.

Andrea works at the interface between Analysis and Geometry. More precisely he studies problems arising from (differential and metric) geometry by using analytic techniques such as optimal transport, functional analysis, partial differential equations, calculus of variations, gradient flows, nonlinear analysis and geometric measure theory. Although the emphasis of his work is primarily theoretical, the topics and the techniques have profound links with applications to natural sciences (mainly physics and biology) and economics.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Ulrike Tillmann announced as President Designate of the London Mathematical Society (LMS)

Oxford Mathematician Ulrike Tillmann has been announced as President Designate of the London Mathematical Society (LMS). 

Ulrike's research interests include Riemann surfaces and the homology of their moduli spaces. Her work on the moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces and manifolds of higher dimensions has been inspired by problems in quantum physics and string theory. More recently her work has broadened into areas of data science.

Ulrike is also well-known for her many contributions to the broader mathematical community, serving on a range of scientific boards including membership of the Council of the Royal Society. She will take over from the current LMS President (and Oxford Mathematician) Jon Keating in November 2021.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Helen Byrne and Benjamin Walker recognised by the Society for Mathematical Biology

Oxford Mathematicians Helen Byrne and Benjamin Walker are among the recipients of the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB)'s 2021 Awards for established mathematical biologists.

Helen becomes a Fellow of the Society, a programme that honours members of the Society who are recognised by the scientific and scholarly community as distinguished contributors to the discipline and also contributors to the Society. This honour will be bestowed at the SMB annual meeting in Riverside in 2021.

Ben has been awarded the H. D. Landahl Mathematical Biophysics Award. This Award recognises a graduate student who is making outstanding scientific contributions to mathematical biology during doctoral studies. Ben is being honored for outstanding contributions modelling flagella and Leishmania and numerical analysis of swimming, and also for his future as a bright leader in the field.  He will receive a certificate at the SMB Ceremony at the Annual Meeting.