“ERC Advanced” at only 36 years of age

At only thirty-six years of age, Nicolas Monod of EPFL’s Mathematics Institute has become one of the youngest scientists to be awarded an ERC Advanced grant in the history of the European organization.

The aim of the ERC (European Research Council) grants is to assist established researchers in initiating interdisciplinary and risk-taking research (ERC Advanced Grants), or to encourage young scientists to perform independent and innovative research (ERC Starting Grants).

To date, no scientist younger than Nicolas Monod (36) has been awarded an ERC Advanced grant, the average age for “advanced” grants being 53 years.
“The grant’s leitmotiv is to span the various mathematical domains in order to take advantage of the wealth of available ideas, rather than being locked into a hyper-specialization” explains Nicolas Monod, chair of the ergodic and geometric theory of groups. “For example, we try to use geometric intuition to solve analysis-related or algebraic problems. Or, inversely, we leverage algebraic abstraction in order to solve geometric problems.”

His project is called Rigidity. “It’s about the discovery of unexpected structures and symmetries, like a crystal hidden in its gangue. The type of problem we focus on is inspired, initially, by space–time geometry, or by the dynamics of the transformation of complex or chaotic systems. But the ultimate goal remains the fundamental understanding of these objects, rather than short-term applications. As such, the ‘paradoxes’ found are of great importance since, thanks to them, we can get rid of our prejudices about space–time, movements, or even the nature of reasoning”, he concludes.

The 1.75 million Swiss-franc grant will be used to finance three international conferences and various initiatives (inviting specialists, and the hiring of doctoral or post-doctoral students).