One plus one equals remarkable: double Humboldt win

The Department of Mathematics is celebrating prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards.

Professor Eamonn O'Brien
Professor Eamonn O'Brien

Professor Eamonn O'Brien and Associate Professor Jeroen Schillewaert received awards from Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to support their further research as internationally renowned academics.

"Two Humbolt awards to Mathematics in one go – one is good, two is quite spectacular," says Dean of Science Professor John Hosking.

The Humboldt Research Award for O'Brien recognises his lifetime academic record. Winning the award, he is classed among academics whose discoveries, theories, or insights have had significant impacts and who are expected to continue to produce cutting-edge achievements.

O'Brien's research is in group theory, which provides a framework for the study of symmetry. His particular focus is the development, implementation and application of algorithms to solve challenging problems in the area.  Many of his research outputs are incorporated into  leading computational algebra systems.

The Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award to Schillewaert recognises his outstanding research to date and his "exceptional promise for the future."

Both awards support research visits to Germany. The pair were thrilled by awards which top anything they have won previously.

"Two such awards to Math – or any other department – over any period is rare," says O'Brien, who knows of only four other Humboldt Research Award recipients at the University, Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond among them.

"This award is in a completely different category from anything I've received previously," says Schillewaert.

Associate Professor Jeroen Schillewaert
Associate Professor Jeroen Schillewaert

Schillewaert's research interests center around geometric group theory, which studies the interaction between geometric and topological properties of interesting spaces and algebraic properties of their symmetries.

In his work he has used techniques from a wide variety of related fields including algebraic geometry, combinatorics, complex analysis and number theory.

The awards total €60,000 ($108,000) for O'Brien and €45,000 for Schillewaert.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a seminal German scientist, natural researcher and explorer. Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784–1846) was a German astronomer and mathematician.

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