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October 28, 2002

Media Contact: Kim McDonald (858) 534-7572

Photograph Credit: University of Nebraska Lincoln


Efim Zelmanov, a former Yale University mathematics professor and recipient of the Fields Medal, commonly known as the Nobel Prize for mathematicians, has joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego.

Zelmanov, a professor of mathematics at UCSD, received his Fields Medal in 1994 for solving the Restricted Burnside Problem, a fundamental algebraic conjecture that mathematicians specializing in group theory had worked on throughout the 20th century. At UCSD, he holds the university’s Rita L. Atkinson Endowed Chair in Mathematics, a professorship named in honor of the psychologist, author and lecturer who also is the spouse of Richard C. Atkinson, the president of the University of California system and the former chancellor of UCSD.

Zelmanov’s presence on the campus is expected to draw other top mathematicians from around the world, enhancing the intellectual excitement and international reputation of the university’s mathematics faculty.

“Professor Zelmanov is one of the top mathematicians in the world and he will play an important role in furthering the international reputation and tradition of excellence of UCSD’s mathematics department,” says James Bunch, chair of mathematics at UCSD. “He is also an outstanding teacher and I expect him to be an exceptional role model for our students.”

“Professor Zelmanov's presence at UCSD ensures that we have one of the leading research groups in algebra and representation theory in the country,” says Jeffrey Remmel, associate dean of UCSD’s Division of Physical Sciences and the former chair of mathematics, who recruited Zelmanov to UCSD. “In addition, he is a superb lecturer and thesis advisor. He will help the mathematics department attract the best young researchers and graduate students in the field of algebra and will have a profound effect on the next generation of mathematics students at UCSD.”

Zelmanov is the third Fields Medalist to join UCSD. Shing-Tung Yau, UCSD’s first Fields Medalist, who won the prize in 1982, worked at UCSD from 1984 to 1987 and is now a professor of mathematics at Harvard University. Michael Freedman, who joined the UCSD faculty in 1975 and received his Fields Medal in 1986 for his work on the Poincaré Conjecture, left UCSD in 1997 to become a researcher in Microsoft’s research theory group.

Zelmanov, who occupies the same office used by both Yau and Freedman, says he was drawn to UCSD “by the beauty of San Diego and the dynamic intellectual atmosphere here. This institution is very oriented toward the sciences and there are lots of opportunities for mathematicians to interact with scientists at the forefront of their disciplines. I’m excited to be here and full of hope and enthusiasm.”

Born and educated in the former Soviet Union, Zelmanov received his doctorate from the Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk in 1980, writing a doctoral dissertation at the age of 25 that completely changed the subdiscipline of mathematics known as Jordan algebras. He came to the United States in 1990 to work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, moved in 1994 to the University of Chicago for a year and left for Yale University in 1995. Last year, at the age of 47, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is the youngest member in the academy’s mathematics division. He is also an editor or on the editorial board of more than 10 major mathematics journals, including The Annals of Mathematics, The Journal of Algebra and The Journal of the American Mathematical Society.

In spite of his demanding research and publication work, Zelmanov plans to devote a significant fraction of his time and energy at UCSD to teaching—both graduate students and undergraduates.

“It’s a great pleasure and privilege for me to tell people for the first time about the greatest mathematics ever produced,” he says. “These are some of the most beautiful inventions of our civilization.”

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