Meet the Ukrainian Quantity Theorist Who Received Math’s Best Honor

Meet the Ukrainian Quantity Theorist Who Received Math’s Best Honor

In overdue February, simply weeks after Maryna Viazovska discovered she had gained a Fields Medal—the absolute best honor for a mathematician—Russian tanks and battle planes started their attack on Ukraine, her hometown, and Kyiv, her fatherland.

Viazovska now not lived in Ukraine, however her circle of relatives was once nonetheless there. Her two sisters, a 9-year-old niece, and an 8-year-old nephew set out for Switzerland, the place Viazovska now lives. They first needed to wait two days for the site visitors to let up; even then the force west was once painfully sluggish. After spending a number of days in a stranger’s house, anticipating their flip as battle refugees, the 4 walked around the border one night time into Slovakia, went directly to Budapest with lend a hand from the Pink Go, then boarded a flight to Geneva. On March 4, they arrived in Lausanne, the place they stayed with Viazovska, her husband, her 13-year-old son and her 2-year-old daughter.

Viazovska’s oldsters, grandmother, and different members of the family remained in Kyiv. As Russian tanks drew ever nearer to her oldsters’ house, Viazovska attempted on a daily basis to persuade them to go away. However her 85-year-old grandmother, who had skilled battle and profession as a kid all through International Warfare II, refused, and her oldsters would now not go away her in the back of. Her grandmother “may now not believe she won’t die in Ukraine,” Viazovska mentioned, “as a result of she spent all her existence there.”

In March, a Russian airstrike leveled the Antonov aircraft manufacturing unit the place her father had labored within the waning years of the Soviet technology; Viazovska had attended kindergarten within reach. Thankfully for Viazovska’s circle of relatives and different Kyiv citizens, Russia shifted the point of interest of its battle effort to the Donbas area in japanese Ukraine later that month. However the battle isn’t over. Viazovska’s sisters spoke of pals who’ve needed to struggle, a few of whom have died.

Viazovska mentioned in Might that even if the battle and arithmetic exist in several portions of her thoughts, she hadn’t gotten a lot analysis performed in contemporary months. “I will not paintings after I’m in struggle with someone or there’s some emotionally tricky factor happening,” she mentioned.

On July 5, Viazovska authorised her Fields Medal on the World Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki, Finland. The convention, arranged by way of the World Mathematical Union each and every 4 years in live performance with the Fields Medal bulletins, were set to happen in St. Petersburg, Russia, regardless of considerations over the host nation’s human rights document, which precipitated a boycott petition signed by way of over 400 mathematicians. But if Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the IMU pivoted to a digital ICM and moved the in-person award rite to Finland.

On the rite , the IMU cited Viazovska’s many mathematical accomplishments, particularly her evidence that an association referred to as the E8 lattice is the densest packing of spheres in 8 dimensions. She is simply the second one girl to obtain this honor within the medal’s 86-year historical past. (Maryam Mirzakhani was once the primary, in 2014.)

Like different Fields medalists, Viazovska “manages to do issues which are utterly non-obvious that a lot of people attempted and didn’t do,” mentioned the mathematician Henry Cohn, who was once requested to present the legit ICM communicate celebrating her paintings. Not like others, he mentioned, “she does them by way of uncovering quite simple, herbal, profound constructions, issues that no one anticipated and that no one else were ready to seek out.”

The 2nd By-product

The best whereabouts of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is a ways from apparent out of doors the EPFL metro station on a wet Might afternoon. Recognized in English because the Swiss Federal Institute of Era Lausanne—and in any language as a number one analysis college in math, physics, and engineering—it’s from time to time known as the MIT of Europe. On the finish of a dual-use lane for bicycles and pedestrians that geese below a small freeway, the idyllic indicators of campus existence come into sight: massive two-tier racks filled with bicycles, modular structure befitting a sci-fi cityscape, and a central sq. covered with study rooms, eateries, and upbeat scholar posters. Past the sq. sits a contemporary library and scholar heart that rises and falls in third-dimensional curves, permitting scholars in and out to stroll below and over each and every different. From underneath, the sky is visual thru cylindrical shafts punched in the course of the topology like Swiss cheese. A brief distance away, inside of a kind of modular constructions, a professor with a safety get entry to card opens the orange double doorways resulting in the internal sanctum of the Math Division. Simply previous the portraits of Noether, Gauss, Klein, Dirichlet, Poincaré, Kovalevski, and Hilbert stands a inexperienced door merely categorized “Prof. Maryna Viazovska, Chaire d’Arithmétique.”

Viazovska videoconferencing with scholars in her EPFL administrative center.{Photograph}: Thomas Lin/Quanta Mag

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