15 January 2021

Algebraic geometer awarded Royal Society Research Professorship

Professor Tom Bridgeland is a recipient of the Royal Society's premier research award, which will fund Tom’s research for five years, in the first instance, but can be renewed for up to 10.

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A leading University of Sheffield mathematician has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society Research Professorship.

Professor Tom Bridgeland is an algebraic geometer in the School of Mathematics and Statistics who became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014.

The Research Professorship is the Royal Society's premier research award and will fund Tom’s research for five years, in the first instance, but can be renewed for up to 10.

The scheme is aimed at internationally renowned researchers, allowing them to spend more time making advances in their area of expertise. Previous recipients include Sir Andrew Wiles, the mathematician best known for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Tom said: “I am delighted to have been awarded the Royal Society professorship. It will allow me to focus more of my energy on research, and to work on some of the biggest challenges in my field.”

Tom’s work during the professorship will build on the long-standing relationship between pure mathematics and theoretical physics.

He said: “Many subfields of mathematics began with attempts to address problems from theoretical physics. On the other hand mathematics provides an essential language for physicists to describe their theories, and computational tools to allow them to make precise predictions.

“In the last few decades this relationship between maths and physics has become particularly close. The present day interaction revolves around a subject called quantum field theory, which provides an essential framework for much of theoretical physics, but which has not yet been understood in a way that makes sense to mathematicians. Using ideas from quantum field theory physicists have been able to predict remarkable answers to questions in pure mathematics, which in many cases have since been proved by mathematicians.”

The questions that Tom’s professorship will address are problems in pure mathematics that stem from quantum field theory and string theory.

“Our aim is to understand the solutions to these problems in particular cases, and to prove a general result which shows that they can always be solved,” Tom said.

“Collaborating with theoretical physicists, and trying to reformulate their ideas in mathematical terms is likely to help with this work. As well as leading to new and interesting mathematics, our hope is that this research will lead us a little closer to a mathematical understanding of quantum field theory.”

Linda Partridge, Biological Secretary of the Royal Society, said: “We are delighted to have appointed seven Royal Society Research Professorships this year. It is becoming more important to enable world-leading talent such as these exceptional scientists. By offering long term support to carry out exciting and visionary research, these scientists will contribute to and strengthen the continued success of UK science.”

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