Aussie Genius Takes Out Top Maths Prize
Australian professor Akshay Venkatesh claims the world’s most prestigious maths prize.
Maths whizz Professor Akshay Venkatesh has become only the second Australian to ever be awarded the world's most prestigious mathematical award, the Fields Medal.
The 36-year-old, who grew up in Perth and specialises in pure mathematics and number theory – a discipline presumably more complex than knowing your times tables – was among four mathematicians from around the world to be awarded the medal.
The award is often described to those of us on a lower intellectual plane than its recipients as 'the Nobel Prize of mathematics'.
Professor Venkatesh, who works at Stanford University in the US, received the medal overnight during an awards ceremony at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro.
When it comes to being exceptional, Venkatesh has a strong track record.
After excelling at maths as a child and garnering international attention for his exploits, he began a science degree at the University of Western Australia at just 13 years of age.
Venkatesh then put the foot down to complete his degree with first class honours in three years – a full year earlier than expected.
His mother Svetha Venkatesh, a professor of computer science at Deakin University, says her son was always a "normal, happy child growing up in a normal family" who was good at maths but also loved sport, music and reading.
"I am thrilled he has got this award, it's the pinnacle of what he can achieve in this field," she told ABC radio.
"And I'm actually very proud of the person he is."
The professor won a Hackett Scholarship from UWA to undertake a PhD at Princeton in 2002.
He is currently working as a professor of mathematics at Stanford, and plans to return to Princeton University this year.
The Fields Medal is only awarded once every four years to between two and four researchers under the age of 40 in recognition of their mathematical achievement.
The only other Australian to have been awarded the Fields Medal was Professor Terrence Tao in 2006.