The “Nobel of Mathematics”: TAU Prof. Noga Alon Wins the Prestigious Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences

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The second Israeli in history to receive the prize.

Prof. Noga Alon of Tel Aviv University and Princeton University has won the 2002 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences. Prof. Alon, one of the world’s leading researchers in mathematics and computer science, is the second Israeli in history to receive the prestigious prize.

Noga Alon, born in 1956, is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Science at Tel Aviv University and Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. Prof. Alon joined Tel Aviv University in 1985, where he served as head of the School of Mathematical Sciences and was entrusted with the Chair of Combinatorics and Computer Science at TAU’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Academia Europaea. In the past, he has won the Israel Prize, the EMET Prize, Gödel Prize and the Steele Prize.

The Shaw Prize was awarded to Prof. Alon for the entirety of his groundbreaking work, which has included laying the foundations for streaming algorithms used in Big Data analysis and the development of algebraic and probabilistic methods to deal with problems in graph theory and additive number theory. “[Noga Alon] introduced new methods and achieved fundamental results which entirely shaped the field,” the judges wrote.

Equivalent to the Nobel

The Shaw Prize was founded in 2002 by Hong Kong media tycoon Run Run Shaw, who decided to award it annually to “individuals, regardless of race, nationality, gender and religious belief, who have recently achieved significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research or applications and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind,” in three categories – mathematics, astronomy, and life sciences and medicine. The prize in each category is $1.2 million.

“Because there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics, there are two prizes, the Abel Prize and the Shaw Prize, which see themselves as equivalent to the Nobel in this field,” explains Prof. Alon. “Obviously, as with any other award, winning depends on various factors, including the composition of the committee, and perhaps ultimately it’s also a matter of luck – because there are certainly quite a few researchers in the world who are deserving of this award. For me, this is a very pleasant surprise; the list of previous winners of the Shaw Prize is really very impressive.”

“Israel is a country that is very strong in the sciences in general, and in mathematics and computer science in particular,” says Prof. Alon. “The global standing of Israeli research in these fields far exceeds the relative size of the population. My own research focuses on combinatorics, which is the mathematics of finite structures, with uses and applications in computer science, additive number theory, combinatorial geometry and other related fields.”

“Prof. Noga Alon  has been one of the most influential and prolific scientists in the field for the past decades,” says Head of the School of Mathematical Sciences, Raymond & Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences,Yaron Ostrover. “His research is characterized by originality, an exceptional ability to solve difficult problems, often using an impressive variety of tools and methods. In addition to his outstanding scientific achievements, Prof. Alon has established a long line of outstanding students who have become leading researchers in mathematics and computer science in their own right, and hold positions at prestigious research universities in Israel and abroad.”

In 2020, the Shaw Prize was awarded to Prof. David Kashdan of the Hebrew University, and this year Prof. Alon shares the prize with another Israeli – Prof. Ehud Hrushovski of Oxford.

Featured image: Prof. Noga Alon (photo: Wikipedia)

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