European researcher awarded prestigious Fields Medal
The Fields Medal, maths' top prize given every four years, was bestowed in Spain upon a French mathematician of German origin for his research concerning probability theory.
Mr Werner, a German–born French citizen, is a professor and researcher at the Laboratoire de mathématiques of the Orsay Faculty of Science in Paris. His work deals with subjects that are found in the sometimes grey area where maths and physics meet. He was specifically recognised by the ICM for his elaborations on stochastic Loewner evolution, the geometry of two–dimensional Brownian motion and conformal field theory, all areas of relevance to modern physics. One common, real world example of his work can be described as the application of probability theory to the behaviour of water molecules as they enter a transitional phase when going from liquid to vapour.
Even though physicists have developed theories in recent years concerning phenomena in such states, it wasn't until the work of Mr Werner and his collaborators that a mathematically rigorous approach was developed that provides a direct geometric picture of systems under such conditions.
“One aspect of our work has been to develop new mathematical concepts and ideas that allowed to get some new insight and to prove the physicists' predictions,” he was quoted as saying after receiving his prize.
Because his work was done in close cooperation with others in the maths community, Mr Werner was quick to acknowledge his colleagues' contribution.
“My first thought was that this prize was for my work, and since a lot of this work was done in collaboration with Greg Lawler and Oded Schramm, that this medal was also theirs (even if I am the only one under the age limit).”
The prize is open to young scientists as a way of fostering new and innovative research. Being aware of this, Mr Werner wondered how the award would affect his work in the future.
“It looks like a big responsibility for me and maybe a
little bit of pressure to deliver nice things. I may want to
tackle too difficult problems and end up being stuck...,”