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Nemmers Prizes in Economics and Mathematics Announced

Richard Blundell and János Kollár recognized for outstanding contributions

  • Prizes are among largest U.S. monetary awards for achievements in respective fields
  • Richard Blundell honored for contributions to labor economics, public finance and applied econometrics
  • János Kollár recognized for his fundamental contributions to algebraic geometry
  • Blundell and Kollár will deliver public lectures, participate in other scholarly activities

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Sir Richard Blundell, the David Ricardo Professor of Political Economy at University College London, and János Kollár, the Donner Professor of Science and Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, are the recipients of the prestigious 2016 Nemmers prizes in economics and mathematics, respectively.

Northwestern University announced the recipients of the 2016 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics and the 2016 Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics today. The prizes are awarded every other year in recognition of major contributions to new knowledge or the development of significant new modes of analysis.

Blundell was selected for his important contributions to labor economics, public finance and applied econometrics. “His research improves the foundations for economic policy and furthers our understanding of economic behavior,” the selection committee noted.

Kollár was selected for his “fundamental contributions to algebraic geometry, including the minimal model program and its applications, the theory of rational connectedness and the study of real algebraic varieties.”

“Richard Blundell and János Kollár are original thinkers in economics and mathematics, and it is an extraordinary privilege for Northwestern to recognize them for their significant contributions,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said. “We look forward to having them on campus, sharing their knowledge and interacting with the University community.”

In connection with the Nemmers awards, Blundell and Kollár will deliver public lectures and participate in other scholarly activities at Northwestern during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years.

Each prize carries a $200,000 stipend, among the largest monetary awards in the United States for outstanding achievements in economics and mathematics. This year marks the 12th time Northwestern has awarded the two prizes.

Northwestern awards two other Nemmers prizes every other year, one in medical science and one in music. In February, Northwestern awarded the inaugural Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science to Dr. Huda Zoghbi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor at Baylor College of Medicine. The 2016 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition will be announced this spring.

Sir Richard Blundell

Blundell’s research covers the empirical microeconomic study of consumer, savings and labor supply behavior.

He has developed micro-data based models for intertemporal decisions over labor supply, human capital and consumption. Blundell also has analyzed family labor supply behavior and the interaction between consumer and labor supply behavior, while developing new microeconometric tools for the study of dynamic panel data models and the nonparametric analysis of individual decisions.

Since 1986, Blundell has been research director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which is highly influential in the economic policy debate in the United Kingdom. He also is director of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy.

Blundell is the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards including the Yrjö Jahnsson Prize (1995) for his work in microeconometrics and the analysis of labor supply, welfare reform and consumer behavior; the Econometric Society Frisch Prize Medal (2000) for the paper “Estimating Labor Supply Responses Using Tax Reforms;” the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize (2008) given to a high-level economist whose research combines both the theoretical and applied aspects of economics; the CES-Ifo Prize (2010); the Sandmo Prize (2011); the IZA Prize in Labor Economics (2012); and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Prize in Economics (2015).

He has served as president of the European Economics Association, the Econometric Society, the Society of Labor Economics and, most recently, as president of the Royal Economic Society.

Blundell is a fellow of the Econometric Society, the British Academy and the Institute of Actuaries and an honorary member of the American Economic Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Blundell has held visiting professorships at the University of British Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley. He was knighted in the 2014 Queens New Years Honours list for services to Economics and Social Science.

A native of England, Blundell earned a B.Sc. from the University of Bristol in 1973 and a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics in 1975. Before joining the faculty of the University College London in 1984, he was a lecturer in econometrics at the University of Manchester from 1975 to 1984. 

János Kollár

Kollár’s specialty is algebraic geometry with additional interest in related questions in number theory, complex geometry and commutative algebra.

He is well known for his contributions to the minimal model program for threefolds, for pioneering the notion of rational connectedness and for finding counterexamples to a conjecture of the late John Nash. In 1952, Nash conjectured a converse to a famous theorem he proved; Kollár was able to provide many three-dimensional counterexamples from an important new structure theory for a class of three-dimensional algebraic varieties.

The recipient of numerous honors during his career, Kollár was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1995. He became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) in 2012. Kollár received the 2006 Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Algebra from the AMS, one of the highest distinctions in mathematics. He also was named a Presidential Young Investigator in 1988 and a Sloan Foundation Fellow in 1989.

Kollár was a plenary speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians held in 2014 in Seoul. In 1996, he gave one of the plenary addresses at the European Mathematical Congress in Budapest. In 1990, Kollár was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Kyōto.

Kollár is the author of more than 130 articles and five monographs in algebraic geometry. He serves as editor of several journals, including the Algebra and Number Theory and the Duke Mathematics Journal.

A native of Hungary, Kollár began his studies at the Eötvös University in Budapest and later received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1984 with Teruhisa Matsusaka. He was a Junior Fellow at Harvard from 1984 to 1987 and a professor at the University of Utah before joining the Princeton faculty in 1999. Kollár currently is the associate chair of Princeton’s department of mathematics.

Background on Nemmers prizes

The four Nemmers prizes are made possible through bequests from the late Erwin Esser Nemmers, a former member of the Northwestern University faculty, and his brother, the late Frederic E. Nemmers, both of Milwaukee. Each prize is awarded every other year.

Erwin Nemmers, who persuaded his brother to join him in making a substantial contribution to Northwestern, served as a member of the faculty of the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 until his retirement in 1986. He and Frederic Nemmers were principals in a Milwaukee-based, family-owned, church music publishing house.

Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated by Erwin and Frederic Nemmers for the establishment of the Nemmers prizes and the establishment of four endowed professorships in the Kellogg School of Management. 

Consistent with the terms of the Nemmers’ bequests, the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics (named in honor of the Nemmers’ father) and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (named by Erwin in honor of his brother) are awarded for “achievement and work of lasting significance” in the respective disciplines. 

Previous Nemmers prize recipients in economics are Peter A. Diamond (1994), Thomas J. Sargent (1996), Robert J. Aumann (1998), Daniel L. McFadden (2000), Edward C. Prescott (2002), Ariel Rubinstein (2004), Lars Peter Hansen (2006), Paul R. Milgrom (2008), Elhanan Helpman (2010), Daron Acemoglu (2012) and Jean Tirole (2014).

Previous Nemmers prize recipients in mathematics are Yuri I. Manin (1994), Joseph B. Keller (1996), John H. Conway (1998), Edward Witten (2000), Yakov G. Sinai (2002), Mikhael Gromov (2004), Robert P. Langlands (2006), Simon Donaldson (2008), Terence Chi-Shen Tao (2010), Ingrid Daubechies (2012) and Michael Hopkins (2014).

The Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition (named in honor of the Nemmers’ grandfather) honors classical music composers with a unique creative voice and outstanding achievement in a body of work. The prize carries a $100,000 stipend.

Previous Nemmers prize recipients in music are John Adams (2004), Oliver Knussen (2006), Kaija Saariaho (2008), John Luther Adams (2010), Aaron Jay Kernis (2012) and Esa-Pekka Salonen (2014).

The Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science (named in honor of the Nemmers’ mother) is awarded to physician-scientists to recognize works of lasting significance in the field of medical science. The inaugural recipient is Dr. Huda Zoghbi (2016).

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