Karen Uhlenbeck

Karen Uhlenbeck, a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University and a visiting associate at the Institute for Advanced Study, is the first woman ever to win the prestigious Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. She will travel to Oslo to receive the award from King Harald V of Norway on May 21. The prize has been awarded every year since 2003.

“Karen Uhlenbeck receives the Abel Prize 2019 for her fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory, which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape. Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions,” said Hans Munthe-Kaas, chair of the Abel Committee.

Uhlenbeck is a retired professor at the University of Texas at Austin. According to an Abel press release, her tools and methods are now “in the toolbox of every geometer and analyst.”

Uhlenbeck told the New York Times that, lacking a female role model for her mathematical studies, she emulated chef Julia Child who “knew how to pick a turkey up off the floor and serve it.” She has advocated for gender equality in math and science and is a co-founder of the Institute for Advanced Study’s Women and Mathematics Program, founded in 1993 to recruit and encourage women mathematicians.

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