June Huh, a Korean-American professor of mathematics at Princeton University in the U.S., received the Fields Medal, a prestigious Nobel Prize in mathematics on July 5, making a new history in the Korean mathematics world.
The 39-year-old professor, who also serves as a distinguished professor of mathematics at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS), became the first-ever scholar of Korean descent to win the award handed down by the International Mathematical Union (IMU) every four years.
The Fields Medal is the most prestigious academic award in mathematics for young mathematicians under the age of 40. Announcement and award were made at the opening ceremony of the quadrennial World Mathematician Competition. The Fields Medal is called the Nobel Prize in mathematics because it does not have a field of mathematics.
Since it started to present the Fields Medal in 1936, there have been 64 winners, including four this year. Nine of them are classified as Asian, but only six have received university education in Asia.
Although Huh was born in 1983 in California, he grew up in South Korea. He majored in physics and astronomy as an undergraduate at Seoul National University (SNU) and studied mathematics at the university's graduate school. Huh obtained his mathematics Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2014.
Huh was mentored by Heisuke Hironaka, a renowned Japanese mathematician and a 1970 Fields Medal recipient, who taught at SNU for a year as a visiting professor when Huh was in his last year of his undergraduate studies.
The Fields Medal selection committee said, "We award Professor June Huh the Fields Medal for his contribution to development of 'geometric combination theory' by solving various combinatorial problems using tools of algebraic geometry."
Carlos Kenig, president of the International Mathematical Federation, said, “Professor June Huh solved the problem of combinatorialism by finding intersections in two very different fields, algebraic geometry and combinatorial theory.”