Maryna Viazovska wins Clay Research Award 2017

Maryna Viazovska © EPFL

Maryna Viazovska © EPFL

Professor Maryna Viazovska, who recently joined EPFL, has won the Clay Research Award.

The Clay Research Award is given every year by the Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI), a privately funded operating foundation dedicated to increasing and disseminating mathematical knowledge. Founded in 1998, the CMI supports the work of leading researchers at various stages of their careers and organizes conferences, workshops, and an annual summer school. It describes its overall aim as furthering “the beauty, power and universality of mathematical thought.” The CMI also organizes and runs the Millennium Prize Problems.

The Clay Research Award was established in 1999 and has been given each year since to recognize the finest contemporary breakthroughs in all areas of mathematics. Past recipients include distinguished mathematicians such as Andrew Wiles, Laurent Lafforgue, Stanislas Smirnov, Terence Tao, Ngô Bao Châu, Manjul Bhargava, Maryam Mirzakhani, and Peter Scholze.

This year, three Clay Research Awards were given, and one of the winners was Professor Maryna Viazovska, who recently joined EPFL as Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the School of Basic Sciences.

The CMI Award honors Professor Viazovska for her groundbreaking solution of the densest sphere-packing problem in dimensions 8 and 24. Published in 2016, the solution draws on the theory of automorphic forms, a branch of number theory. More specifically, Professor Viazovska employed an innovative use of modular and quasimodular forms, which enabled her to prove that the E8 lattice is an optimal solution in eight dimensions. 

The approach had been suggested in the past by Henry Cohn and Noam Elkies, who proposed the existence of a special function that can force the optimality of the E8 lattice through an application of the Poisson summation formula. Professor Viazovska approach introduces new, unexpected techniques, and establishes important connections with number theory and analysis. The CMI states that “[h]er elegant proof is conceptually simpler than that of the corresponding result in three dimensions.”

The CMI Award will be presented officially in September 2017 during the annual Clay Research Conference.