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Double whammy for mathematics

Press release issued: 11 November 2004

Two academics in Bristol University's Department of Mathematics have been awarded prestigious prizes by the European Commission and the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.

Two academics in Bristol University’s Department of Mathematics have been awarded prestigious prizes by the European Commission and the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.

Dr Jens Marklof, Reader in Mathematical Physics, is one of the winners of the 2004 Marie Curie Excellence Awards. The awards are given in recognition of the excellence achieved by researchers who have benefited from EU support schemes and to boost their careers by contributing to their international exposure. He will receive a grant of 50,000 euros.

Dr Marklof received the award for his studies in quantum chaos and number theory. His main achievement is the proof of a 25-year-old conjecture by Bristol-based academic, Professor Sir Michael Berry, and Professor Michael Tabor, University of Arizona, which explains statistical correlations between the energy levels of an important class of quantum systems.

Ben Green, who will be joining the University in January 2005 as Professor in Pure Mathematics, has become the first UK-based mathematician to win the Clay Research Award. The award is given annually to recognise significant breakthrough results in mathematical research.

Dr Green has been recognised for his joint work with Professor Terry Tao, University of California, on arithmetic progressions of prime numbers. These are equally spaced sequences of primes such as 31, 37, 43 or 13, 43, 73, 103. Dr Green and Professor Tao showed that for any n, there are infinitely many n-term progressions of primes. Their proof, which relies on results of Szemerédi (1975) and Goldston and Yildirim (2003), uses ideas from combinatorics, ergodic theory, and the theory of pseudorandom numbers. The Green-Tao result is a major advance in our understanding of the primes.

Professor Steve Wiggins, Head of Mathematics, said: “The Marie Curie Award is one of the most important, and competitive, awards for scientific research given by the European Commission. Competition is drawn from all areas of science and engineering, from basic research to concrete implementations of technology, and Jens is the first mathematician ever to receive this award. When you consider how difficult it is to communicate seemingly abstract ideas to the public, the fact that Jens’ research was singled out for such an award is even more impressive.

“In the few years the Clay Research Award has been given, it is already established as one of the most prestigious awards in all of mathematics. This is clear from the list of previous winners, which includes some of the most prominent living mathematicians. With this award Ben joins an elite group of mathematicians. At the same time, Ben has also been appointed a Clay Research Fellow for a two-year term. This is a wonderful achievement, and well-deserved recognition for Ben.”

The Marie Curie Awards are part of the opportunities provided by a four-year €1.56 billion programme intended to support the training and mobility of researchers in Europe, coming from all over the world. Each year, between one and five prizes are presented to former “Marie Curie” fellows or other researchers who have benefited from EU funded mobility research programmes. EU “Marie Curie” actions foster the training, mobility and career development of researchers. Fellowships are available in any scientific discipline. They contribute directly to the objectives of the EU Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6 2002-2006) and the Lisbon Strategy - to make Europe the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.

The Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) was founded in September 1998 by Landon T Clay, a Boston businessman, and his wife, Lavinia D Clay.


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