Perimeter researcher wins prestigious AMS prize


Kevin Costello lauded for his efforts to bring mathematics and physics closer.

Perimeter Faculty member Kevin Costello has won the 2020 Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Mathematics and Physics from the American Mathematical Society (AMS) for his influential work to bring mathematics and physics closer together.

Costello, who holds the Krembil William Rowan Hamilton Chair in Theoretical Physics at Perimeter Institute, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the mathematical foundations of quantum field theory.

Mathematical physics is a notoriously difficult field. The award committee noted that Costello’s approach is unlike many mathematicians who work on topics that originate in physics.

“Kevin Costello cares deeply about the foundations of physics itself, as conceived of by physicists, and is constantly generating physical insights that go beyond mathematical rigour,” the citation states.

“He is respected by mathematicians and physicists alike and plays a unique role in breaking new and fertile ground on which the two communities can jointly develop directions of research, even while coming to a fuller understanding of important known phenomena.”

Costello said it was a great honour to receive the prize, which is awarded every third year. Previous winners include past Breakthrough Prize winners Andrew Strominger and Cumrun Vafa, and ICTP Dirac Medallist Gregory W. Moore.

The Irish researcher was quick to deflect attention away from his individual work, though, saying that the prize was just as much about his collaborators and Perimeter’s research environment.

“It’s something that Perimeter does really well, this interdisciplinary research between math and physics,” Costello said.

“With Davide [Gaiotto], our work is in the same vein but he was trained as a physicist. We’ve been working very hard to introduce mathematicians to concepts from physics, and to use mathematical techniques to solve problems in physics.

“I think it’s wonderful the AMS is interested in recognizing such interdisciplinary work.”

Perimeter Director Robert Myers said the award recognizes that “Costello is a brilliant thinker working in uncharted areas spanning pure mathematics and fundamental physics – areas from which we expect important breakthroughs to emerge and refine our understanding of nature.”

Such research, Myers added, “is fuelled by the visionary support of the Krembil Foundation,” which recently increased its support of research chairs held by Costello and Perimeter Faculty member Davide Gaiotto.

- Tenille Bonoguore


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Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 
 

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“Kevin Costello is a brilliant thinker working in uncharted areas spanning pure mathematics and fundamental physics.”

- Robert Myers, Perimeter Director