Karen Uhlenbeck Is the First Woman to Be Awarded the 2019 Abel Prize

Karen Uhlenbeck, professor emerita of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, has received the 2019 Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The award, modeled after the Nobel Prize, is considered the top international award in the field of mathematics. Dr. Uhlenbeck will receive the award, which comes with a monetary prize of approximately $700,000, at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway on May 21. She is the first woman to earn the award, which has been given out since 2003.

Dr. Uhlenbeck is being honored for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory, and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry, and mathematical physics. Her research has been described as some of the most important in 20th-century mathematics, constituting revolutionary advances in geometry.

This award is not the first time Dr. Uhlenbeck has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to the field of mathematics. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1983, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986, was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2002, and received the Steel Prize for a Seminal Contribution to Research from the American Mathematical Society in 2007.

Since shortly after she arrived at the University of Texas at Austin in 1987 through her retirement in 2014, Dr. Uhlenbeck held the Sid. W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics. In addition to teaching and conducting research, she also co-founded a number of programs throughout her career that were designed to inspire and support young people in mathematics, including the Saturday Morning Math Group, the Distinguished Women in Mathematics Lecture Series, the Park City Mathematics Institute, and the Women and Mathematics program at the Institute for Advanced Study.

“For more than three decades at the University of Texas, Karen Uhlenbeck conducted research that revolutionized geometric analysis and mathematics as a whole,” said university president Gregory L. Fenves. “She was an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor to thousands of UT students, motivating them to reach great heights in their academic and professional lives. The Abel Prize is the highest honor in mathematics, and it is one that Professor Uhlenbeck richly deserves.”

Dr. Uhlenbeck is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. both from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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