Spielman Receives $3 Million Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics


Sterling professor of computer science Daniel Spielman will be honored with the “Oscars of Science” for his pioneering research in algorithms and mathematics at the 2023 ceremony.


Collaborating journalist


Jacob Liao, collaborating photographer

Daniel Spielman ’92 didn’t expect to make $3 million.

But the ‘Oscars of Science’ called and Professor Sterling of Computer Science was told he had won the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, one of the most prestigious prizes in his field.

The Breakthrough Prizes, awarded on September 22, were created in 2012 by a group of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, including Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. Winners in the three categories—mathematics, basic physics, and life sciences—each receive a $3 million prize.

“I didn’t see it coming because the Breakthrough Prize has always been awarded to people who are much more on the pure side than I am, and I’m really, you know, a part-time pure mathematician, a part-time computer scientist partial,” Spielman told the News.

Spielman was recognized for his contributions to theoretical computer science and mathematics, including spectral graph theory, the Kadison-Singer problem, numerical linear algebra, optimization, and coding theory, according to the award. website.

The professor is no stranger to cheers; he received the 2008 Gödel Prize with his collaborator Shang-Hua Teng for his work on the smooth analysis of algorithms. Their work established a new mathematical framework to better study the behavior of algorithms in the real world, beyond traditional methods.

In 2014, Spielman, along with collaborators Adam Marcus and Nikhil Srivastava GRD ’10, received the George Pólya Prize for their work on the proof of the Kadison-Singer conjecture, a long-standing unsolved problem with far-reaching applications in areas such as network science and quantum physics.

In 2015, Spielman and Teng again shared the Gödel Prize for a series of papers on near-linear-time Laplacian solvers, a set of algorithms that helped solve an outstanding open problem in linear algebra.

SPielman is also affiliated with the departments of statistics and mathematics; on October 14, it will launch Yale’s Kline Tower Institutea data science initiative, and is its director.

“I’ve always loved pure math, but the things I’m most excited about are usually driven by an application somewhere,” Spielman said. “For me, the weirdest thing is that there’s a lot of math I’ve read that’s very obviously useful to me, or in an applied sense, but the people who have done it, don’t think so of It was interesting for them for totally different reasons.

Teng, Spielman’s longtime collaborator and close friend, said Spielman had been a star mathematician since his undergraduate years at Yale.

Additionally, Teng praised Yale’s role in producing a wonderful scholar who is also an eloquent writer – sometimes found lacking in academia.

“Dan has three things that set him apart as a scientist: excellent taste in choosing problems, outstanding problem-solving skills, and persistence,” Teng said. “Beyond answering existing open questions, he is a thinker who can envision new questions emerging at the frontiers of science to guide generations to come.”

Spielman will officially accept the award at a gala ceremony, which traditionally includes actors and presenters. Notable attendees of previous ceremonies have included the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Lupita Nyong’o DRA ’12 and Lionel Richie.

Marco Pirazzini GRD ’27 described the reaction of Spielman’s colleagues to the announcement of the prize as joyous, with the feeling that few other scientists – or people – could have been more worthy of such an accolade.

“We joked about it in our meeting, but then it was business as usual,” Pirazzini said. “The best part about Dan is that the only thing he really cares about is math. He’s not looking for any distinctions. He just likes to think about problems.

Spielman graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1992, with outstanding honors in computer science.

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