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Northwestern mathematician wins award at 'Oscars of Science'

Aaron Naber is one of the recipients of the prestigious New Horizons in Mathematics Prize

Aaron Naber
Aaron Naber at the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in San Francisco.

EVANSTON - Northwestern University mathematician Aaron Naber was among several awardees of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize, the so-called “Oscars of Science,” which celebrates top achievements in physics, life sciences and mathematics and is sponsored by Silicon Valley elites including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sergey Brin.

A combined total of $22 million in prizes was awarded during a Dec. 3 globally televised gala in Silicon Valley hosted by actor Morgan Freeman.

Naber, the Kenneth F. Burgess Professor of Mathematics at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, was one of four recipients of the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize. He received a total of $100,000 for the honor.

In another honor, Naber also was recently named to the 2018 Class of the Fellows of the American Mathematical Society. He was selected for his contributions to differential geometry, particularly to manifolds with bounds on Ricci curvature.

“Winning the New Horizons prize was certainly an honor, and attending the events was unquestionably a singular experience in my career,” Naber said. “The organizers of the Breakthrough and New Horizon Prizes are clearly working hard to make an event with a large public outreach, and the opportunity to spend time with so many of the great scientists was certainly a special opportunity.”

Naber attended all three nights of ceremonies and said that, aside from this year’s winners, there also were dozens of Nobel Prize winners, Fields Medalists and former Breakthrough prizewinners at the first night’s ceremony at tech investor Yuri Milner's house.

The gala featured a performance by hip hop artist Wiz Khalifa and presentations from actors Mila Kunis, Kerry Washington, Lily Collins and Ashton Kutcher, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky and more.

Now in its sixth year, the Breakthrough Prize was founded by Google’s Sergey Brin, WeChat’s Pony Ma, Yuri and Julia Milner, 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan “to celebrate the achievements of scientists, physicists and mathematicians whose genius help us understand our world and whose advances shape our future,” Zuckerberg said.

Since it’s inception in 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded close to $200 million to honor “paradigm-shifting research” in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics. Selection committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates choose the winners.

More information about the Breakthrough Prizes is available at breakthroughprize.org.

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