Richard Westcott Kenyon, recently named as the Erastus L. DeForest Professor of Mathematics, focuses his research on mathematical models of crystal formation and phase transitions, for example the water-to-ice transition or magnetization transition.

Even though these processes are inherently mathematical, the details of what is transpiring are not at all understood because of the complexity of the equations. Typically, mathematicians make simplified versions of them, for example two-dimensional versions, which are more tractable. Despite this, the mathematical structure developed for solving the simplified models has been found to have far-reaching implications in other areas of mathematics and physics, such as algebraic geometry and string theory. For instance, the study of the “dimer model,” which was originally a two-dimensional model of crystal formation, has led to “brane dimers” which is one possible theory of the physics of 10-dimensional space-time at the subatomic scale.

A graduate of Rice University, Kenyon earned his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton University. He came to Yale on July 1 from Brown University, where he served as the William R. Kenan Jr. University Professor of Mathematics. Kenyon held teaching positions at Princeton University, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of British Columbia before joining the Brown faculty. Prior to his academic career, he worked in a variety of positions, including as research director, at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France for 12 years.

Kenyon has contributed numerous research articles to professional journals and chapters in edited books. He serves as an editor of International Mathematics Research Notices and the Annales de l’Institut Henri Poincaré-D. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Simons Foundation, and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Kenyon’s honors include the Loève Prize and the Prix Charles-Louis de Saulses de Freycinet from the French Académie des Sciences.