Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska was named Tuesday as one of four recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal, which is often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.
The International Mathematical Union said Viazovska, who holds the chair in number theory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, was being honored for her work on the densest packing of identical spheres in eight dimensions.
Viazovska said Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February had profoundly changed her life and those of all Ukrainians.
“When the war started I could not think about anything else, including mathematics,” she said, adding that teaching has offered some respite, however.
“When I’m in front of class, I have to forget about everything else because I have to be very focused,” said Viazovska. “This made me forget about the fear and pain inside myself.”
The other winners were French mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin of the University of Geneva; Korean-American mathematician June Huh of Princeton; and British mathematician James Maynard of the University of Oxford.
The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to mathematicians under age 40. The recipients are normally announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, which was originally due to be held in Russia this year but moved to Helsinki instead.
“The ongoing barbaric war that Russia still continues to wage against Ukraine clearly shows that no other alternative was feasible,” the president of the International Mathematical Union, Carlos E. Kenig, said.
Viazovska recently dedicated one of her lectures to Yulia Zdanovksa, a young Ukrainian mathematician and computer scientist from Kharkiv. who was killed in a Russian missile attack.
“When someone like her dies, it’s like the future dies,” Viazovska said. “Right now, Ukrainians are giving the highest price for our beliefs and for our freedom.”