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Ukrainian mathematician awarded prestigious Fields Medal

Frank Jordans

BERLIN (AP) – Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska was named on Tuesday as one of four recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal, which is often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

The International Mathematical Union said Viazovska, who holds the chair in number theory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, was being honoured for her research into geometric problems.

Viazovska, 37, said she was very humbled to receive the prize for her work, which she said addresses a “very old and natural question”, namely the densest way to pack identical spheres.

While many people are familiar with the problem having seen cantaloupes stacked like a pyramid in a supermarket, Viazovska took it to another dimension – the eighth and 24th, to be precise – solving it in a way that drew widespread praise from top mathematicians.

“This is actually a very useful tool used in many areas of technology,” she told The Associated Press.

Maryna Viazovska (R) receives the Fields Medal during the International Congress of Mathematicians 2022 in Helsinki, Finland. PHOTO: AP

Viazovska said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 had profoundly changed her life and those of all Ukrainians.

“Ukraine is my native country and seeing how it’s being destroyed, how many lives are lost … of course, it’s all very difficult,” she said.

The other winners were French mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin of the University of Geneva; Korean-American mathematician June Huh of Princeton; and British mathematician James Maynard of the University of Oxford.

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to mathematicians under the age of 40. The recipients are normally announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, which was originally due to be held in Russia this year but moved to Helsinki instead.