Harald Helfgott ’98 awarded Adams Prize by University of Cambridge, UK
Harald Helfgott ’98 has been awarded the Adams Prize by the University of Cambridge, U.K., one of its oldest and most prestigious. The prize, awarded jointly to Helfgott and to Dr. Tom Sanders of the University of Cambridge, honors young U.K.-based mathematicians doing first-class international research in mathematical sciences. Helfgott, currently a reader at the University of Bristol and researcher at the CNRS/ENS Paris, has also been the recipient of additional noteworthy awards. In 2010 he was presented with the Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society for his contributions to number theory and in 2008 he was awarded the Leverhulme Mathematics Prize for his work on number theory, diophantine geometry and group theory.
Helfgott was a double major in mathematics and computer science while at Brandeis, graduating summa cum laude with the highest honors in both disciplines. Professors from both departments recall Helfgott as a top student, extremely well prepared, outspoken, and as one who truly loved to learn and exchange ideas. He took full advantage of the opportunities for independent research in both departments, resulting in several conference papers and publications.
In computer science, working with James Storer he completed significant research projects on genetic algorithms for lossless image compression, Lempel-Ziv methods for two dimensional lossless compression, predictive coding and maximal parsings. He formulated an approach to two-dimensional coding that equaled one of the best methods in the literature at the time and had a number of computational advantages. According to Storer, “He had an impact on nearly every research group in the Computer Science Department at that time.”
Professor of mathematics Ira M. Gessel said, “Although I never had him for a course, I did write a paper [Enumeration of Tilings of Diamonds and Hexagons with Defects] with him when he was an undergraduate here (the only paper I’ve ever written with an undergraduate). Harald was involved in an undergraduate research program with Jim Propp on tilings, and he had made some progress on solving some open problems on counting certain types of tilings. He was having trouble evaluating some determinants, and I helped him with that technical aspect of his work. But the main ideas of the paper were all Harald’s."
On graduation, Helfgott chose to focus on mathematics, doing his Ph.D. at Princeton and postdoctoral stints at Yale and at Concordia University before moving to his current position at Bristol. In addition to his current active research career, Helfgott also has been strongly committed to the free sharing of information in all areas of intellectual activity, giving lecture series' to students and young researchers in the Third World, including lecture series in India, Cuba, Bolivia, and his native Peru.