Australian-American Math Professor Wins Prestigious Fields Prize

August 3, 2018 Last Updated: August 3, 2018

A professor at Stanford University has received the prestigious Fields Prize, regarded as the Nobel Prize for mathematics and awarded as the subject’s highest honor once every four years.

Akshay Venkatesh, an Australian-American mathematician, won the prize for his work synthesizing various concepts, including analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology and representation theory. He is one of four men to win the prize this year.

Venkatesh grew up in Perth, Australia and graduated high school at the age of 13, according to Stanford. He went on to receive his doctorate from Princeton University and began teaching at Stanford in 2008.

“I think just manipulating numbers makes me feel happy,” Venkatesh said in a celebratory video for the International Mathematics Union and the Simons Foundation. With his research he hopes to find more ways in which homogeneous dynamics can be used in number theory.

He gave one example in the video, saying if a ball bounces inside a triangle shape and doesn’t stop, the ball tends to avoid certain areas, while it is attracted to others. He hopes to analyze this information to further develop number theory.

Venkatesh is married to a music teacher, Sarah, and has two daughters, Tara and Tuli. He is currently on sabbatical from Stanford at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

“A lot of the time, when you do math, you’re stuck. But at the same time, there are all these moments where you feel privileged that you get to work with it. And you have this sensation of transcendence,” he said in the video. “You feel like you’ve been part of something really meaningful.”

Venkatesh is one of only two other Stanford professors to win the Fields Prize, including Maryam Mirzakhani, who was the first woman to win the prize in 2014, and Paul Cohen in 1966.

Reporting by Supriya Yelimeli