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Jean Bourgain Awarded Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics

December 04, 2016
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Christine Ferrara
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Jean Bourgain, IBM von Neumann Professor in the School of Mathematics, has received the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, for “multiple transformative contributions to analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations, high-dimensional geometry, and number theory.” A member of the Institute Faculty since 1994, Bourgain was cited by the prize committee for solving major problems in vector spaces, as well as expander graphs; proving one of the two most fundamental theorems in ergodic theory; and developing novel techniques and insights applicable across a wide range of fields. A 1994 recipient of the Fields Medal, Bourgain has produced important work with impact across theoretical computer science, group expansion, spectral gaps, and the theory of exponential sums in number theory. 

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Video: Jean Bourgain

Mohammed Abouzaid, current Visitor in the School of Mathematics, was among the four recipients of the 2017 New Horizons in Mathematics Prize awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in mathematics. Two former Members of the Institute’s School of Natural Sciences, Andrew Strominger (1982–87) and Cumrun Vafa (1994), share the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with Joseph Polchinksi for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity. Additionally, three former Visitors in the School of Natural Sciences, Peter Graham (2008), Frans Pretorius (2012–13), and Xi Yin (2010), were awarded the 2017 New Horizons in Physics Prize.

Previously announced Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics winners in the Institute’s School of Mathematics include Richard Taylor, Robert and Luisa Fernholz Professor; Ian Agol, Distinguished Visiting Professor (2015–16) in the School; and former Members Simon Donaldson (1983–84), Maxim Kontsevich (2002, 1992­–93), and Terence Tao (2005). In 2012, four Institute Faculty members in the School of Natural SciencesNima Arkani-Hamed, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, and Edward Witten—each won the inaugural Fundamental Physics Prize.

The Breakthrough Prizes, now in their fifth year, were founded by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner to recognize the world’s top scientists. Since its inception in 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded close to $200 million to honor paradigm-shifting research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences, and mathematics. Laureates attend a televised awards ceremony, which this year took place on December 4, designed to inspire the next generations of scientists and engage in lectures and discussions. 

About the Institute

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 41 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.