Four mathematicians with ties to MIT were recently honored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). Professors Michel Goemans and Richard Stanley, along with Cornell University Professor David Williamson PhD ’93, are the recipients of the 2022 AMS Leroy P. Steele Awards. Associate Professor Semyon Dyatlov received the inaugural Mikhail Prize Gordin 2022, offered jointly by the AMS and the European Mathematical Society (EMS).
All four will be recognized for their achievements at the January 2022 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle. They will be joined by two MIT math graduate students, Travis Dillon, who will receive the 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Award for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student, and Alex Cohen, who will receive the award. Frank and Brennie 2022. Brennie Morgan Honorable Mention Award.
Richard P. Stanley, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at MIT, will receive the 2022 AMS Leroy P. Steele Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Stanley revolutionized enumerative combinatorics, revealing deep connections with other branches of mathematics, such as commutative algebra, topology, algebraic geometry, probability, convex geometry, and representation theory,” according to the AMS quote. “In doing so, he solved important long-standing combinatorial problems, often invigorating these other fields with new combinatorial methods. Through his outstanding research, excellent exhibition work, and numerous PhD students, collaborators, and colleagues, he continues to influence the field of combinatorics worldwide.
He received his BS in mathematics from Caltech in 1966 and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1971. After post-docs at MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, Stanley began teaching at MIT in 1973 and retired in 2018. He was awarded the Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition in 2001, as well as the SIAM George Pólya Prize for Combinatorics in 1975 and the Rolf Schock Prize for Mathematics in 2003.
“When I started working in enumerative and algebraic combinatorics around 1967, I was very attracted by the vision of my thesis supervisor Gian-Carlo Rota, who saw glimmers of deep links between combinatorics and other branches of mathematics,” Stanley recalled. “Throughout my career, it has been gratifying to see many very talented aspiring mathematicians decide to work in algebraic and enumerative combinatorics.”
Michel Goemans and David Williamson
Goemans and Williamson will receive the 2022 Steele Prize for seminal contribution to research for their 1995 paper “Improved Approximation Algorithms for Maximum Cut and Satisfaction Problems Using Semidefinite Programming”, in the ACM Journal. This paper, which focused on the Max-Cut problem, a central problem in combinatorial optimization, “had a major and sustained impact on the fields of theoretical computer science and optimization theory,” according to the AMS.
Goemans received a BS and MS in Applied Mathematics from the Catholic University of Louvain in 1987 and completed his PhD at MIT in 1990. He continued at MIT as an instructor and is currently Head of Department and RSA Professor. He was previously a Robert E. Collins Distinguished Scholar in Mathematics and served as the Leighton Family Professor of Mathematics.
Goemans’ research focuses on combinatorial optimization and algorithms, in particular the development of new techniques for designing approximation algorithms. He has developed techniques for the design and analysis of efficient approximation algorithms for discrete optimization problems, with provable guarantees on the quality of the solution produced. He received the AW Tucker Award (1991), the SIAM Activity Group on Optimization Award (1996 and 1999), the IBM Faculty Partnership Award (2000), and the MIT School of Science Student Advising Award (2004). In 2006, the department selected him for the Robert E. Collins Merit Scholarship. A former Sloan Scholar and NSF Career Scholar, Goemans was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007.
“My work over the years has been deeply influenced by the many transformative contributions of Laci Lovász and Lex Schrijver,” says Goemans. “When I heard about so-called Lovász-Schrijver matrix cuts (to reinforce binary optimization problems) at a DIMACS workshop in 1989, I began to wonder how semidefinite relaxations could approach various (difficult) combinatorial problems.The simplest problem to consider was naturally enough the maximum cut problem.While easy to state, the journey has been long and the failures almost innumerable.
Williamson adds: “We had the idea of using a random hyperplane to partition the vectors. Analysis of the main result soon followed. I sometimes tell this story to my students (and to myself) to explain why persistence is important and why you shouldn’t give up on your ideas too quickly.
Williamson and Goemans’ work on the uses of semi-definite programming received the AMS Delbert Ray Fulkerson Award in 2000. Williamson was at IBM’s Almaden Research Center before joining Cornell University in 2004, with a joint position at the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering and the Department of Information Science. Williamson’s research interests lie in the area of discrete optimization, particularly approximation algorithms.
He is co-author of the book “The Design of Approximation Algorithms”, which won the 2013 INFORMS Lanchester Prize. His doctoral thesis on the design of low-cost survival networks received the 1994 Tucker Prize from the Mathematical Programming Society.
Associate Professor Semyon Dyatlov will receive the inaugural 2022 Mikhail Gordin Prize, offered jointly by AMS and the European Mathematical Society. This award is given to a mathematician working in probability or dynamical systems, with preference given to early career mathematicians from or professionally linked to an Eastern European country; Dyatlov was born in Novosibirsk, Russia.
Dyatlov, who joined MIT in 2015, is recognized for his work on quantum chaos, scattering theory, and, in particular, differentiable dynamical systems.
“He has been the leader in the application of micro-local methods to the study of classical hyperbolic dynamics in a way that has proven useful in the study of dynamic zeta functions (Ruelle) and fluxes Axiom A,” the AMS quote reads.
Dyatlov received his BS from Novosibirsk State University in 2008 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013, under the supervision of Maciej Zworski, with whom he wrote “Mathematical Theory of Scattering Resonances”. He received a Sloan Fellowship in 2017, the IAMP Early Career Award in 2018, and an NSF CAREER Fellowship in 2018, and is a guest speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2022.
Dyatlov thanked those “who introduced me to micro-local analysis and hyperbolic dynamics, at the interface of which much of my research took place”, including the late Jean Bourgain for his collaborations on the quantum chaos and the fractal uncertainty principle.