, MIT News correspondent inform, “Patience is important for our subject,” says math professor Wei Zhang. “You’re always making infinitesimal progress.”
Photo: Jake BelcherWei Zhang’s breakthrough happened on the train. He was riding home to New York after visiting a friend in Boston, during the last year of his PhD studies in mathematics at Columbia University, where he was focusing on L-functions, an important area of number theory.
“All of a sudden, things were linked together,” he recalls, about the flash of insight that allowed him to finish a key project related to his dissertation. “Definitely it was an ‘Aha!’ moment.”
But that moment emerged from years of patient study and encounters with other mathematicians’ ideas. For example, he had attended talks by a certain faculty member in his first and third years at Columbia, but each time he thought the ideas presented in those lectures wouldn’t be relevant for his own work.
“And then two years later, I found this was exactly what I needed to finish a piece of the project!” says Zhang, who joined MIT two years ago as a professor of mathematics.
As Zhang recalls, during that pivotal train ride his mind had been free to wander around the problem and consider it from different angles. With this mindset, “I can have a more panoramic way of putting everything into one piece...Conversations and patience
Bridging other branches of math with number theory has become one of Zhang’s specialties.
In 2018, he won
the New Horizons in Mathematics Breakthroughs Prize, a prestigious award for researchers early in their careers. He shared the prize with his old friend and undergraduate classmate, and current MIT colleague, Zhiwei Yun, for their joint work
on the Taylor expansion of L-functions, which was hailed as a major advance in a key area of number theory in the past few decades.Read more...
Source: MIT News