Abel Committee Selects Prize Winner in Pittsburgh

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March 19, 2019

One of the biggest decisions in mathematics was made in Pittsburgh this January, when the Abel Prize Committee met following “Abel in Pittsburgh,” a daylong conference celebrating math and the Abel Prize.

During this meeting, the committee, which includes Carnegie Mellon University’s Kavčić-Moura University Professor of Mathematics Irene Fonseca, selected Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas at Austin to receive the 2019 Abel Prize.  The honor recognizes a researcher’s contributions to mathematics over the course of a career and is considered to be the most important prize in the field for a lifetime achievement.

“Karen Uhlenbeck is one of the major founders of modern geometric analysis, and her work has been inspirational and transformative,” said Fonseca. “The Abel Prize now culminates a prestigious career.”

The prize is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the 2019 recipient was announced today, March 19. Uhlenbeck will accept the award from Norway’s King Harald V at the Abel Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo on May 21.

Uhlenbeck was cited by the academy and the committee for her “pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”

Uhlenbeck has also been recognized with the Steel Prize, the National Medal of Science, the MacArthur Prize and fellowship in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Abel In Pittsburgh conference was held at Carnegie Mellon on Jan. 11 and was organized by Fonseca and Professor of Mathematical Sciences Dejan Slepčev. It brought some of the world’s preeminent mathematicians to Pittsburgh to speak to an audience of faculty, staff, students and members of the community. Speakers included Abel Laureate and Princeton Professor Yakov Sinai, MIT Professor Scott Sheffield, Abel Committee Member and Princeton Professor Sun-Yung Alice Chang, and Abel Committee Member and University of Jerusalem Professor Gil Kalai.

After the meeting, the members of the Abel Committee — Fonseca, Chang, Kalai, François Labourie from the Université de Nice and Hans Munthe-Kaas from the University of Bergen — met to discuss candidates for the Abel Prize and decided on Uhlenbeck.