Korean American Wins Top Medal for Math

By Lee Young-wan | July 06, 2022 11:35

A Korean-American professor at Princeton University has won the prestigious Fields Medal awarded to brilliant mathematicians under 40.

The International Mathematical Union on Tuesday said Huh June won this year's Fields Medal along with Maryna Viazovska of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Hugo Duminil-Copin of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in France, and James Maynard of Oxford University.

The Fields Medal is awarded at the International Congress of Mathematicians, which takes place every four years.

Huh June poses with the Fields Medal at an award ceremony in Helsinki, Finland on Tuesday. /Yonhap

Huh was born in the U.S. in 1983 when his parents were studying there but went to school in Korea. He quit high school to become a poet but eventually got his high school equivalency diploma and, after a gap year, entered Seoul National University as a physics major. He discovered his passion for math when renowned Japanese mathematician Heisuke Hironaka, who won the Fields Medal in 1970, taught at SNU for a year as a visiting professor.

At Hironaka's urging Huh went to pursue a master's degree in mathematics at SNU and went on to the U.S. to study for his doctoral degree, where he proved the notoriously tough Read's conjecture in 2012.

The medal is for "bringing the ideas of Hodge theory to combinatorics, the proof of the Dowling–Wilson conjecture for geometric lattices, the proof of the Heron–Rota–Welsh conjecture for matroids, the development of the theory of Lorentzian polynomials, and the proof of the strong Mason conjecture," according to the IMU.

"I'm afraid that my quiet life will be turned upside down, but I also get excited thinking about showing off to my friends," Huh said. "My goal is to create and discover a beautiful structure, continuing to be creative and curious and getting to understand a bigger world and making it understood through math."

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