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U.S. Mathematician Becomes First Woman To Win Abel Prize, ‘Math’s Nobel’

Mar 19, 2019 by

“I find that I am bored with anything I understand,” Karen Uhlenbeck once said – and that sense of curiosity is part of why she won the prestigious Abel Prize, from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

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Uhlenbeck, an influential mathematician who was for decades a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and who has sought to encourage women to study mathematics, has become the first woman to win the Abel Prize — often called the Nobel Prize of math.

Uhlenbeck’s complex and wide-ranging work includes analyzing the “minimal surfaces” of soap bubbles and finding ways to unite geometry and physics through new mathematical approaches. She’s widely respected for her work on esoteric topics, such as partial differential equations and the calculus of variations.

“Uhlenbeck’s research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics,” said Paul Goldbart, a professor of physics who is also the dean of UT’s college of natural sciences. In a statement about Uhlenbeck winning the Abel Prize, he added, “Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time.”

The Norwegian academy said it recognized Uhlenbeck “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.”

Source: U.S. Mathematician Becomes First Woman To Win Abel Prize, ‘Math’s Nobel’ | KPBS

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