A ‘magic wand’ for mathematics
Eskin was cited for “revolutionary discoveries in the dynamics and geometry of moduli spaces of Abelian differentials,” including the proof of the “magic wand theorem” with Mirzakhani.
Eskin teamed with Mirzakhani to prove a theorem about dynamics on moduli spaces. Their tour de force, published in 2013, has far-reaching consequences in the field of mathematics. It addressed a longstanding math problem: If a beam of light from a point source bounces around a mirrored room, will it eventually reach the entire room—or will some parts remain forever dark?
After translating the problem to a highly abstract, multi-dimensional setting, the two mathematicians were able to show that for polygonal rooms with angles which are fractions of whole numbers, only a finite number of points would remain unlit.
Born in Kiev, Eskin received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles and studied physics and mathematics at Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before receiving his PhD in math from Princeton University. He joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1996. Eskin is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences; among his other honors are a Sloan Fellowship and a Simons Investigator Award.
Eskin said he intends to donate part of the prize money to an International Mathematical Union fellowship to help graduate students pursuing doctorates in developing countries, following a tradition among winners of the prize.
This year’s winners join their University of Chicago colleagues Craig Hogan, who received the Breakthrough Prize in 2015 for his work on the High-Z Supernova Search Team that helped prove that the universe is expanding faster and faster over time, rather than slowing; and Daniel Holz and Hsin-Yu Chen, who received the 2016 Breakthrough Prize for their work as part of the LIGO collaboration that made the first detection of gravitational waves.
The EHT collaboration also includes several scientists who worked at UChicago as postdoctoral researchers or grad students, including Jason Henning, Ryan Keisler, Erik Leitch, Daniel Michalik and Andrew Nadolski.
The awardees will be recognized at a Nov. 3 ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
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