June Huh wins MacArthur ‘genius’ grant for artistic approaches to mathematical puzzles

June Huh wins MacArthur ‘genius’ grant for artistic approaches to mathematical puzzles

June Huh, a professor of arithmetic at Princeton College who gained the 2022 Fields Medal earlier this yr, has been awarded a 2022 MacArthur Fellowship for “discovering underlying connections between disparate areas of arithmetic and proving long-standing mathematical conjectures.”


Huh is one among 25 MacArthur Fellows within the 2022 cohort, a gaggle of mathematicians, scientists, artists, students and activists who every obtain $800,000 no-strings-attached grants over a five-year interval. The fellowships, identified informally as “MacArthur genius grants,” acknowledge individuals who have demonstrated “distinctive originality in and dedication to their artistic pursuits.”

“June Huh is a uncommon and distinctive expertise with an inspiring mixture of mathematical genius and creativity,” stated Princeton College President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “All of us at Princeton are thrilled that the MacArthur Basis has acknowledged this extraordinary scholar, and we stay up for what he’ll do sooner or later.”

“Along with his progressive strategy and fruitful collaborations with others, Huh is reinvigorating the sector of geometric combinatorics and provoking a brand new technology of mathematicians,” the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Basis stated in its announcement.

Princeton graduate alum Melanie Matchett Wooden, who accomplished her Ph.D. in arithmetic in 2009 and is now at Harvard, additionally obtained a MacArthur Fellowship, for “addressing foundational questions in quantity concept from the angle of arithmetic statistics.”

‘The best concepts reveal themselves as we work together with one another’

Huh expressed his gratitude “to my academics, pals and collaborators. They’re the supply of all my mathematical outputs. As I get older, I’m changing into extra satisfied that the best concepts reveal themselves as we work together with one another.”

The brand new MacArthur Fellow stated he nearly didn’t choose up the cellphone when the MacArthur Basis referred to as to say he had been chosen. “I hardly ever choose up cellphone calls until they’re from my household or the college nurse,” Huh stated.

When he did choose up, he missed the preliminary a part of the decision the place the speaker launched herself. “My first lecture was about to begin, and I am usually very sluggish in shifting my consideration,” he stated. After the caller talked about the grant quantity, “I assumed, ‘Both she’s probably the most clever scammer I’ve ever heard, or I’ve some stunning information for my spouse!’”

Huh is understood for proving long-standing mathematical conjectures by constructing bridges between totally different branches of math, particularly combinatorics and algebraic geometry. Algebraic geometry entails the properties of geometric constructions — like curves or surfaces — which might be described utilizing polynomial equations.

Combinatorics issues counting, arranging and mixing units of parts inside a discrete system. For instance, what number of methods can 5 folks organize themselves round a spherical desk? Most mathematicians take into account algebraic geometry and combinatorics distinct, nearly unrelated branches of arithmetic, however Huh noticed how these extensively totally different fields may reply one another’s long-standing questions.

Whereas nonetheless in graduate college, Huh proved Learn’s conjecture, an issue in graph concept first proposed in 1968. He used strategies from algebraic geometry to show what had lengthy been thought of a combinatorics downside.

His collaborations have since reached in lots of instructions. “Nearly all my works are joint endeavors,” he stated. “Within the outdated days, math was completed alone in a darkish room. These days, we speak to one another and we write collectively, clear up issues and construct constructions collectively.”

Huh was born in 1983 in California, the place his mother and father had been attending graduate college. Two years later, the household moved to Seoul, South Korea, the place his father taught statistics and his mom taught Russian literature. As a toddler, Huh appreciated puzzles and logic video games, however he didn’t like arithmetic because it was taught in class.

He pursued numerous pursuits, together with poetry and nonfiction writing, and he was many of the means via an undergraduate diploma in astronomy at Seoul Nationwide College when famed Japanese mathematician Heisuke Hironaka visited Seoul.

Huh had been contemplating a profession in science writing, and when he learn Hironaka’s autobiography, he thought the aged scholar would make a captivating article topic. Hironaka had come to Seoul in hopes of getting some quiet time to sort out a mathematical problem, however he had agreed to show an introductory course on algebraic geometry.

“I attended the course with out realizing or caring about any of the content material of the course,” Huh stated. “Nevertheless it was fascinating simply to see him carry out. He would say, ‘Oh, I’ve this concept. Let’s see what occurs.’ He would nearly all the time fail, nevertheless it reworked my notion of what arithmetic is. I acquired actually hooked, as a result of this was the primary time I noticed arithmetic as an exercise. Earlier than this, arithmetic was one thing completed by somebody who lived 200 years in the past, in a spot I’ve by no means been.

“No person dared to ask him a query or speak to him or work together in any means with him. So Professor Hironaka acquired precisely what he needed: full solitude for his intensive analysis interval — till I approached him.

“I ready a bunch of questions. I didn’t know a variety of arithmetic then, so that they had been philosophical, recommendation kind questions from studying his autobiography. We began having lunches collectively on the college cafeteria, after which he would inform me tales or train me arithmetic — little by little, in a very disordered vogue. I used to be hooked.”

Huh accomplished his B.S., then stayed at Seoul Nationwide for his M.S. in arithmetic, primarily working below Hironaka’s course. Throughout the holidays, he went to Kyoto and Tokyo with Hironaka, the place he stayed with the mathematician and his spouse. At his mentor’s suggestion, Huh got here to the U.S. for his Ph.D.; he began on the College of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, then completed his diploma on the College of Michigan.

Huh had a sequence of fellowships and visiting professorships, together with a number of stints on the Institute for Superior Examine, throughout which he taught programs at Princeton College earlier than formally becoming a member of the Princeton school in 2021.

Huh has gained many honors and awards, together with the Fields Medal (2022), the Simons Investigator Award (2021), the New Horizons in Arithmetic Prize from the Breakthrough Prize Basis (2019) and a Clay Analysis Fellowship (2014). He additionally serves as editor for a number of mathematical journals, and he has given many invited lectures, together with on the 2018 Worldwide Congress of Mathematicians.

Graduate MacArthur winner: Melanie Matchett Wooden


Wooden investigates foundational questions in pure arithmetic. She focuses on quantity concept (the properties and relationships of entire numbers) and algebraic geometry. She, too, combines a breadth of mathematical approaches, in Wooden’s case to disclose new methods to see elementary properties of numbers.

“Numbers and their properties are one of the historic and common pursuits of humanity,” she informed the MacArthur Basis. “But numbers maintain extra secrets and techniques that we’re nonetheless working to disclose. Unlocking these mysteries requires new views and infrequently occurs once we uncover stunning connections between totally different elements of arithmetic.”

Wooden obtained her B.S. (2003) from Duke College and a Certificates of Superior Examine in Arithmetic (2004) from the College of Cambridge earlier than incomes her 2009 doctoral diploma from Princeton. She was a researcher with the American Institute of Arithmetic (2009–2017) and held school positions at Stanford College (2009–2011), the College of Wisconsin at Madison (2011–2019), and the College of California at Berkeley (2019–2020). In 2020, she turned a professor at Harvard College and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor on the Radcliffe Institute for Superior Examine.

MacArthur Fellows are nominated anonymously by leaders of their respective fields and thought of by an nameless choice committee.