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Alumni Yun Zhiwei and Zhang Wei awarded New Horizons Prize in Mathematics

DEC . 13 2017
Peking University, Dec. 5, 2017: Peking University alumni Yun Zhiwei and Zhang Wei shared a prestigious New Horizons in Mathematics Prize on December 3, as part of the 2018 Breakthrough Prizes. It was a recognition of “their deep work on the global Gan-Gross-Prasad conjecture and their discovery of geometric interpretations for the higher derivatives of L-functions in the function field case”.
A formula summarizing Zhiwei Yun and Wei Zhang’s proof

The proof of global Gan-Gross-Prasad conjecture is closely related with the three of the Millennium Prize Problems, namely Hodge conjecture, Riemann hypothesis and BSD (Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer) conjecture. "Our equation connects number theory and geometry. It is related to the Hodge Guess in algebraic geometry while connected with the Riemann Zeta function in the Riemann hypothesis. This equation can be regarded as some extensions under the BSD conjecture framework", Yun said in a CCTV interview.

Yun Zhiwei (left) and Zhang Wei (right) at the Breakthrough Prizes ceremony

Dubbed the “Oscars” of science, the Breakthrough Prizes were set up by donations from Google founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife Zhang Ying, etc. Starting from 2012, the Scientific Breakthrough Prizes have been awarded to scientists who have made outstanding contributions in life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. In addition, the New Horizons Prizes with $100,000 to each laureate are awarded to the early-career researchers.

This year a total of 12 Breakthrough Prizes in life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, as well as 7 New Horizons awards in physics and mathematics were awarded. Yun and Zhang were the first Chinese mathematicians awarded The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize since its foundation in 2016.

Both Yun and Zhang had their undergraduate study in the School of Mathematical Sciences (SMS) at Peking University from the year 2000 to 2004. Together with many other SMS students, Yun and Zhang not only gained their knowledge of mathematics but also found great pleasure in doing scientific research, while at the same time building a strong connection with their classmates. This connection has laid a foundation for their future collaboration on cracking mathematical problems.

In retrospection, the past few years has witnessed outstanding achievement made by SMS graduates. Besides the New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes this year, SMS graduates have also been awarded SASTRA Ramanujan Gold Award, ICTP Ramanujan Gold Award, Sloan Research Fellowships, Qiu Shi Outstanding Young Scholar Award, etc. Also, 8 SMS alumni are invited speakers of the 2018 International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM). To cooperate and communicate, both at PKU and globally, has always been a central topic for PKU SMSers.

Zhu Xinwen, professor at California Institute of Technology, and Yuan Xinyi, assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley, are classmates of Yun and Zhang. The four have been cooperating for more than ten years. Yun and Zhu focus on algebraic geometry while Yuan and Zhang on number theory. Their complementary view and methodology in mathematics lay the ground for the outstanding research work. Thus they are dubbed “four little swans in mathematics”. 

Liu Ruochuan and Xu Chenyang, Class of 2003, returned to PKU after studying abroad. They are now working at SMS and Beijing International Mathematical Research Center. Back to Yanyuan, they have both made remarkable achievements in different fields. Liu has become  one of the best world-class experts in the field of P-adic Hodge Theory. He gradually expands his fields of research and has achieved fruitful results on Modality Forms and other related fields. Xu, who always stresses that he is only a “mathematical worker”, dedicates himeself to promoting the development of mathematics and algebraic geometry in China. With continuous efforts, he has been receiving awards one after another, including ICTP Ramanujan Prize and Future Science Award.

Xiao Liang and Lu Jianfeng, Class of 2005, are also leaders of young scholars. Liang won the Simons Foundation Award and the National Science Foundation for his outstanding research, while Lu won the Sloan Research Award, the National Science Foundation Career Award, the American Academy of Mathematics and Applied Imaging IMA awards and many other awards.

Liu Ruochuan, Yun Zhiwei, Yuan Xinyi, Song Shichang, Xiao Liang, Xu Chenyang (from left to right)

Many young and promising alumni not only encourage and support each other’s research work, but also keep close contact with their Alma Mater. In June 2017, besides participating in the seminar on “P-adic Hodge Theory and Automorphic Forms”, Yun Zhiwei, Zhang Wei, Zhu Xinwen, Xiao Liang and Liu Yifeng also shared experiences of maths learning and research methods with current SMS students.

First row from left: Liu Ruochuan, Yun Zhiwei, Zhang Wei
Second row from left: Xiao Liang, Zhu Xinwen, Liu Yifeng

Seminar of “P-adis Hodge Theory and Autoporphic Forms”

In early 2017, Yun Zhiwei, Zhang Wei and Xu Chenyang received full professor offer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mathematics. They first met each other at the Olympiad Winter Camp. In 2000, they met again at Peking University. Ten years later, the three outstanding alumni are active in the forefront of international mathematical research and jointly start a new chapter in their mathematical career.

Since its founding more than 100 years ago, SMS has cultivated nearly 10,000 graduates. A large number of accomplished and full-fledged SMSers have made outstanding contributions. It is the atmosphere of “academic freedom and inclusiveness, innovation, cooperation and mutual progress” that gives birth to generations of outstanding mathematicians. 

Background information: 

Yun Zhiwei won the 41st IMO gold medal with full marks and was admitted to Peking University. After graduating from Peking Univerisity, he went to Princeton University in 2004 and got his doctorate degree in 2009. In 2012, he won the SASTRA Ramanu Gold Award for his “fundamental contributions to representations, algebraic geometry and number theory”. From 2012 to 2016, he served as Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at Stanford University. He is currently a professor at Yale University in the United States. He will be a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the coming 2018.

Zhang Wei was admitted to SMS in 2000. After graduating from Peking University, he went to Columbia University in 2004 and got his doctorate degree in 2009. He became a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University in 2009-2011. He won SASTRA Ramanu Gold Award for his far-reaching contributions to a wide range of math-based fields such as number theory, conservatism, L-functions, trace formulas, representations and algebraic geometry. He became a faculty at Columbia University in the United States in 2011 as an assistant professor and then associate professor. In 2015, he became a full professor in Columbia University. He has been professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2017. 

Written by: Feng Shasha & Lu Linlin
Edited by: Yan Shengnan