As a boy and later a student in Athens, 37-year-old Constantinos Daskalakis could never have imagined that he would one day receive one of the most prestigious international mathematics awards in the world. Now, as the holder of the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize for 2018, his thoughts turn to home.
A professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Daskalakis spoke to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) from Rio, Brazil where he received the prize during a meeting of the International Conference of Mathematicians.
“The Nevanlinna is one of the prizes you learn about when you are young and then you look at the list of recipients and decide that the chances that you will ever get it are miniscule. When I heard that my work had been recognised with this huge distinction I felt great joy and greatly honoured. Then I thought of all the people, without whom I could never have got here: my parents and my brother, my grandmother, my girlfriend, my friends, teachers and my students.”
“Then, Greece came to my mind, whose contribution to mathematics and human thought generally has been an inspiration throughout my life. Finally, I remembered the recent tragedy with the fires in Attica and the unjust loss of so many people. All these ideas together were in my mind when I got on the stage to receive the prize and made me feel very moved,” he said.
Daskalakis also expressed his happiness that he was able to contribute to Greek thought: “Greece has a lot of talent and I hope the conditions will soon arise to reduce the ‘brain drain’ so our young people can create in Greece without distractions,” Daskalakis said.
The Rolf Nevalinna Prize is awarded every four years to a scientist under 40 who has made major contributions to the mathematical aspects of computer science.
Daskalakis was honored by the International Mathematical Union (IMU) for “ transforming our understanding of the computational complexity of fundamental problems in markets, auctions, equilibria, and other economic structures.” The award comes with a monetary prize of 10,000 euros.
As a recipient of the prize, Daskalakis will now be able to participate in the Heidelberg Laureate Forum that is open to the holders of top mathematics prizes (Fields, Abel, Turing and Nevanlinna).
The prize was established in 1981 by the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union IMU and named to honour the Finnish mathematician Rolf Nevanlinna who had died a year earlier. The award consists of a gold medal and cash prize. Like the Fields Medal the prize is targeted at younger mathematicians, and only those younger than 40 on January 1 of the award year are eligible.