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

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In late February, simply weeks after Maryna Viazovska realized she had received a Fields Medal—the best honor for a mathematician—Russian tanks and conflict planes started their assault on Ukraine, her homeland, and Kyiv, her hometown.

Viazovska not lived in Ukraine, however her household was 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 visitors to let up; even then the drive west was painfully gradual. After spending a number of days in a stranger’s residence, awaiting their flip as conflict refugees, the 4 walked throughout the border one night time into Slovakia, went on to Budapest with assist from the Pink Cross, 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 mother and father, grandmother, and different members of the family remained in Kyiv. As Russian tanks drew ever nearer to her mother and father’ residence, Viazovska tried daily to persuade them to depart. However her 85-year-old grandmother, who had skilled conflict and occupation as a baby throughout World Struggle II, refused, and her mother and father wouldn’t depart her behind. Her grandmother “couldn’t think about she won’t die in Ukraine,” Viazovska stated, “as a result of she spent all her life there.”

In March, a Russian airstrike leveled the Antonov airplane manufacturing unit the place her father had labored within the waning years of the Soviet period; Viazovska had attended kindergarten close by. Fortuitously for Viazovska’s household and different Kyiv residents, Russia shifted the main focus of its conflict effort to the Donbas area in japanese Ukraine later that month. However the conflict shouldn’t be over. Viazovska’s sisters spoke of buddies who’ve needed to combat, a few of whom have died.

Viazovska stated in Could that though the conflict and arithmetic exist in numerous components of her thoughts, she hadn’t gotten a lot analysis achieved in latest months. “I can’t work once I’m in battle with anyone or there’s some emotionally tough factor occurring,” she stated.

On July 5, Viazovska accepted her Fields Medal on the Worldwide Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki, Finland. The convention, organized by the Worldwide Mathematical Union each 4 years in live performance with the Fields Medal bulletins, had been set to happen in St. Petersburg, Russia, regardless of issues over the host nation’s human rights document, which prompted a boycott petition signed by over 400 mathematicians. However when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the IMU pivoted to a digital ICM and moved the in-person award ceremony to Finland.

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

Like different Fields medalists, Viazovska “manages to do issues which are utterly non-obvious that a number of folks tried and did not do,” stated the mathematician Henry Cohn, who was requested to provide the official ICM discuss celebrating her work. In contrast to others, he stated, “she does them by uncovering quite simple, pure, profound buildings, issues that no person anticipated and that no person else had been capable of finding.”

The Second Spinoff

The exact whereabouts of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is way from apparent outdoors the EPFL metro station on a wet Could afternoon. Recognized in English because the Swiss Federal Institute of Expertise Lausanne—and in any language as a number one analysis college in math, physics, and engineering—it’s generally 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 life become visible: large two-tier racks filled with bicycles, modular structure befitting a sci-fi cityscape, and a central sq. lined with lecture rooms, eateries, and upbeat pupil posters. Past the sq. sits a contemporary library and pupil middle that rises and falls in three-dimensional curves, permitting college students inside and outside to stroll below and over one another. From under, the sky is seen by means of cylindrical shafts punched by means of the topology like Swiss cheese. A brief distance away, inside a kind of modular buildings, a professor with a safety entry card opens the orange double doorways resulting in the interior sanctum of the Math Division. Simply previous the portraits of Noether, Gauss, Klein, Dirichlet, Poincaré, Kovalevski, and Hilbert stands a inexperienced door merely labeled “Prof. Maryna Viazovska, Chaire d’Arithmétique.”

Viazovska videoconferencing with college students in her EPFL workplace.{Photograph}: Thomas Lin/Quanta Journal

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