Former UdeM postdoc gets ‘Nobel prize of mathematics’

James Maynard, an Oxford University professor who did his postdoctoral work at Université de Montréal, has been named one of four recipients of the 2022 Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics.

Maynard held a CRM-ISM postdoctoral fellowship at UdeM in 2013-2014 under the supervision of mathematics professor Andrew Granville. In 2019, with UdeM professor Dimitris Koukoulopoulos, Maynard proved the 1941 Duffin-Schaeffer conjecture.

While in Montreal, Maynard was a member of the number theory laboratory of the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) hosted by UdeM. The CRM receives major federal funding from NSERC and its laboratory structure, based on funding from the Fonds de recherche du Québec, and is unique in North America.

“Beyond an extraordinary individual achievement, this award is an fantastic example of what is possible when resources from different provincial, national and local resources are engaged in close coordination in the pursuit of excellence,” said CRM director Octav Cornea.

The Fields Medal recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement. Often described as the ‘Nobel Prize of mathematics,’ the medal is awarded every four years.

‘Spectacular contributions’

A professor at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute, Maynard was cited for his ‘spectacular contributions’ to analytic number theory, ‘which have led to major advances in the understanding of the structure of prime numbers and in Diophantine approximation’.

‘It means a huge amount to win such a prestigious prize and to have this sort of recognition from my colleagues around the world,” Maynard said upon receiving the award.

“It feels a bit surreal imagining my name alongside giants of mathematics that I read about as a child.”

The International Mathematical Union, which has awarded the Fields Medal since the 1930s, said Maynard’s “work is highly ingenious, often leading to surprising breakthroughs on important problems that seemed to be inaccessible by current techniques.”

The other three winners of the 2022 Fields medal are Hugo Duminil-Copin of the Université de Genève, June Huh of Princeton University and Maryna Viazovska from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.

Along with previous Fields medalists Terrence Tao of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University, Maynard will be in Montreal for a conference in honour of Granville’s 60st anniversary from Sept. 5 to 9, hosted by the CRM on the UdeM campus.

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