Cornell University

Top: Prof. Csaki, Prof. Lanagan, Prof. Kim (left to right) Bottom: Prof. Coste, Prof. Stillman, Prof. Townsend (left to right)

March 30, 2022

The Simons Fellowship: Groundbreaking Theoretical Physics and Mathematics Research by Cornell Faculty

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Last month, six Cornell faculty members ​​received the Simons Fellowship, which provides funding for a research leave. Three received the Theoretical Physics fellowship and three received the Mathematics fellowship. 

This year, there were 10 recipients of the Theoretical Physics Fellowship and 38 recipients of the Mathematics Fellowship, coming from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. 

Prof. Csaba Csáki, physics, was one of the recipients of the Theoretical Physics fellowship. Csáki researches particle physics beyond the standard model, which describes electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions. The standard model describes how these interactions make up the basic building blocks of the universe. 

“We have some really good reasons to believe that there may be other phenomena that are not going to be described by the standard model. For example, dark matter is not described by the standard model,” Csáki said. 

Csáki will spend his one year sabbatical with researchers from around the world. 

“In the fall, I’m going to Israel for six weeks and in the spring, I’m going to Japan for six weeks. I have collaborators in both of those places,” Csáki said. 

Prof. Eun-Ah Kim, physics, also received the Theoretical Physics fellowship. Kim’s prior research experience includes collaborating with the University’s computer science department to apply artificial intelligence tools to correlated quantum matter research. 

Kim will conduct research at Harvard University during her sabbatical.

“Being free from day-to-day responsibilities and teaching will help me think more bold and creative thoughts. Spending a full year at Harvard will help me sprout and nurture new collaborations with colleagues at Harvard and MIT, applying machine learning tools and data science approaches to quantum matter data,” Kim said.

Prof. Michael Stillman, mathematics, was a recipient of the Mathematics fellowship. Stillman researches computational algebraic geometry. He hopes to incorporate his research about mathematics into real world applications, such as string theory and biology. 

“The Simons will allow me an extra semester to go to the [other] top centers of research in these areas, where many other mathematicians have the same interest in structure. This is far more interesting math and structure than the basic math one learns up through calculus,” Stillman said.

Prof. Alex Townsend, mathematics, was a recipient of the Mathematics Fellowship, as well. Townsend researches computational mathematics and numerical linear algebra.

Townsend will be traveling to Australia during his sabbatical where he will be exploring accurate methods for solving differential equations. 

“I’ve been developing, what we call, a spectral method—which is a very accurate method for solving differential equations—for a few years. One of the collaborators that I have in Australia also develops the same techniques,” Townsend said. 

The other two Cornell faculty members who received the Simons Fellowship, Prof. Laurent Saloff Coste, mathematics, and Prof. Eanna Flanagan, physics, did not comment. 

2022 was a remarkable year with six Cornell faculty members receiving the Simons Fellowship—there were no Cornell recipients in 2021, one in 2020, and two in 2019. Overall, the Simons Fellowship will give Cornell physics and mathematics faculty an opportunity to conduct innovative research with collaborators from other universities and around the world.