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Former UMD Research Student Awarded the ‘Nobel Prize’ of Math

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Former UMD Research Student Awarded the ‘Nobel Prize’ of Math

“Mathematics, like music, like painting, like poetry, is a creative art,” says Manjul Bhargava.

Bhargava, who participated in UMD Professor Joseph Gallian’s Summer Math Research Experience for Undergraduates in 1995, has been awarded the 2014 Fields Medal.

Officially known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, the Fields Medal is awarded every four years by the International Congress of Mathematicians and is considered comparable to the Nobel Prize in the math world. UMD’s Gallian attended the award ceremony in Seoul, South Korea, as Bhargava’s official guest. The medal was presented to Bhargava by South Korea President Park Geun-hye.

Manjul Bhargava, the R. Brandon Fradd Professor of Mathematics at Princeton, received a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2001 and was hired at the rank of full professor at Princeton in 2003. He’s the second youngest full professor in Princeton history.

After everything he’s accomplished over the years, Bhargava counts Gallian as one of his mentors. “He has this enthusiasm that’s very contagious and people get very excited about what they’re working on,” he said in a former interview. “It was one of the most enjoyable and productive summers I’ve ever had,” Bhargava has said about his research at UMD. Bhargava was working on innovative research at UMD. Gallian said, “I gave him a number theory problem, and already in 1995, he had an ingenious approach.”

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UMD math Professor Joe Gallian and Manjul Bhargava are wearing their Duluth Summer Mathematics Research t-shirts.

Quanta Magazine describes of Bhargava’s work as “some of the most profound recent discoveries in number theory. … In the past few years, he has made great strides toward understanding the range of possible solutions to equations which have bedeviled number theorists for more than a century.”

“His work is better than world-class,” said Ken Ono, a number theorist at Emory University in Atlanta. “It’s epoch-making… Bhargava lives in a wonderful, ethereal world of music and art.”

“All of us are in awe of the beauty of his work,” said Harvard number theorist Benedict Gross.

Bhargava is the first United States citizen to win the Fields Medal since 1998. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences at age 38 in 2013.

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Bhargava’s family, college roomates, and UMD math Professor Joe Gallian in Seoul, South Korea, after the award ceremony.

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This story was written by Cheryl Reitan with UMD’s External Affairs department. It originally appeared on the University of Minnesota Duluth homepage in August 2014.

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