Mathematician wins international prize

Professor Marston Conder has been awarded the prestigious Euler Medal for a distinguished lifetime career in an area of mathematics known as combinatorics.

Professor Marston Conder

Combinatorics is primarily concerned with enumeration, or counting, and discrete optimisation. It underlies the methods used in a wide range of activities, from the number squares in Sudoku puzzles to complex everyday tasks such as air-crew rostering and devising codes for telecommunications.

The medal is awarded by the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications (ICA) which was founded in 1990 and is currently based in the United States. It is named after the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, who is famous for his work in a large number of branches of mathematics in the 1800s, including some of the foundations of combinatorics.

Professor Conder’s work in combinatorics has mainly been concerned with the analysis and construction of highly symmetric discrete objects, especially symmetric networks (which are called "graphs" in algebra and combinatorics), maps, and polytopes (which are geometric structures with certain uniform properties).

This work has involved a mixture of theoretical analysis, experimental computation, and then spotting and exploiting patterns in the results of the computations. There have been some cases where this approach has helped him find answers to questions in other branches of mathematics including geometry, group theory and low-dimensional topology, and even in mathematical psychology.

Professor Conder says he’s very happy to be awarded the Euler Medal.

Adapting a quote from Thomas Jefferson, he says “I've been very lucky many times in my career, but it seems that the harder I work, the luckier I get.

“I’m very grateful to the many people who have helped me along the way, both personally and professionally. My research has been a lot of fun, and right now it’s great to see some very clever younger colleagues coming through in mathematics. I hope they have as much good fortune as I have had.”

The medal was announced at a Combinatorics conference in the USA on 10 March and will be presented in person to Professor Conder at a similar conference at some future date when air travel is easier.

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