Professor Simon Brendle Wins Breakthrough Prize

Postdoc Oliver Philcox was also recognized with an early-career award.

September 14, 2023

Simon Brendle, a professor of mathematics, has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize. The annual prize was founded in 2012 by sponsors Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Julia and Yuri Milner, and Anne Wojcicki, and touts itself as the world’s largest international science prize. It comes with a $3 million award. Professor Brendle was recognized for “a series of remarkable leaps in differential geometry, a field that uses the tools of calculus to study curves, surfaces and spaces. Many of his results concern the shape of surfaces, as well as manifolds in higher dimensions than those we experience in everyday life.”

“We're thrilled to see Professor Brendle's work recognized in such a public way. His ongoing research on differential geometry and nonlinear partial differential equations is of vital importance for the field, and he is a treasured member of the Columbia community,” said Johan de Jong, the chair of the mathematics department.

Oliver Philcox, a junior fellow in the Simons Society of Fellows, hosted at Columbia, was also recognized with Breakthrough's New Horizons in Physics Prize for early-career researchers. Philcox was recognized along with two other researchers for “contributions to our understanding of the large-scale structure of the universe and the development of new tools to extract fundamental physics from galaxy surveys.” In addition to awarding the prize in mathematics and a handful of early-career prizes, Breakthrough also recognized laureates in life sciences and physics.

“We couldn't be more proud of the two Columbians being recognized for their work, which, in different ways, investigates the fundamental structures of nature. The very different disciplines that they represent reflect the diversity of this great University's intellectual life. We're proud of this recognition of their extraordinary talents,” said Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Amy Hungerford.

In a small evening reception hosted by President Minouche Shafik for the winners and their colleagues in the departments of mathematics and physics, President Shafik offered her congratulations on behalf of the entire Columbia community, “We are all incredibly thrilled for you, and we're so delighted that Columbia University is your intellectual home.”