The Laureates

Copyright © Klaus Tschira Stiftung / Peter Badge

Andrei Okounkov

Born 26 July 1969, Moscow, Soviet Union (today Russia)

Fields Medal (2006) for his contributions bridging probability, representation theory and algebraic geometry

Andrei Yuryevich Okounkov was educated in Moscow where he attended Moscow State University. However, his route was not quite the rapid one taken by many who go on to acquire the highest achievements.

After the award of his first degree, Okounkov remained at Moscow State University undertaking research for his Candidate’s degree (equivalent to a Ph.D.) supervised by Alexander Aleksandrovich Kirillov.

Okounkov was awarded his Candidate’s degree in 1995 for his thesis Admissible Representation of Gelfand Pairs Associated with the Infinite Symmetric Group. Before the award of this degree, he already had papers in print such as Thoma’s theorem and representations of an infinite bisymmetric group (Russian) (1994) and on the representation of orbits in the form of the sum of elementary orbits (Russian) (1994). He was appointed as a research fellow in the Dobrushin Mathematical Laboratory at the Institute for Problems of Information Transmission at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Moving to the United States, he spent time at the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley in the academic year 1996-97, financially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. While there he wrote the paper “Proof of a Conjecture of Goulden and Jackson”.

In 1997 he was appointed an Instructor at the University of Chicago, a position he held for three years. He also spent some time at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he held an Alfred P Sloan Research Fellowship in 2000 and a Fellowship from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2001. Packard Fellowships are awarded to researchers in mathematics, natural sciences, computer science, and engineering who are in the first three years of a faculty appointment.

In 2002 Okounkov was appointed as a Professor at Princeton University. He received a European Mathematical Society Prize 2004.

His greatest honor has been the award of a Fields Medal at The International Congress of Mathematicians held at Madrid in August 2006 “for his contributions bridging probability, representation theory and algebraic geometry”.

The press release concerning his award begins: “The work of Andrei Okounkov has revealed profound new connections between different areas of mathematics and has brought new insights into problems arising in physics. Although his work is difficult to classify because it touches on such a variety of areas, two clear themes are the use of notions of randomness and of classical ideas from representation theory. This combination has proven powerful in attacking problems from algebraic geometry and statistical mechanics.”

Okounkov left Princeton in 2010 to take up a professorship of mathematics at Columbia University in New York.

Courtesy of: School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Article by: J J O’Connor and E F Robertson – JOC/EFR © March 2011 (abbreviated)