Indian American mathematician Nikhil Srivastava shares maths award

Trio’s highly original work solves the famous “paving problem” in operator theory

Indian American mathematician Nikhil Srivastava, who teaches at University of California Berkeley, will share a prestigious mathematics award with two colleagues for their highly original work which solves the famous “paving problem.’’

Srivastava, Adam Marcus and Daniel Spielman, will receive the 2022 Ciprian Foias Prize awarded for notable work in Operator Theory on Jan, 5 during the Joint Prize Session at the 2022 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle..

The award recognizes their highly original work that introduced and developed methods for understanding the characteristic polynomial of matrices, according to the American Mathematical Society.

Read: Indian American mathematician Nikhil Srivastava wins the 2014 George Polya Prize (July 11, 2014)

“The trio’s breakthrough paper provided a powerful toolkit with many applications, which solves the famous ‘paving problem” in operator theory, formulated by Richard Kadison and Isadore Singer in 1959,” it said in a press release.

“Our involvement was the final chapter of an amazing story we hope will inspire similar solutions of difficult problems in the future,” Srivastava, Marcus and Spielman said accepting the prize.

“Had it not been for a series of works over a span of decades, we would likely have never known about the Kadison–Singer problem,” they said.

“We were fortunate to have the groundbreaking work of Julius Borcea and Petter Brändén at our disposal, and a revolutionary idea from Leonid Gurvits as inspiration.”

“I was a third-year graduate student advised by Dan when we started thinking about this problem as an outgrowth of an earlier project on graph sparsification with Josh Batson,” said Srivastava.

“I remember being stunned the first time we computed an expected characteristic polynomial in MATLAB and saw that it had real roots.

“We had very slow progress on Kadison–Singer during my years as a postdoc, and I am grateful to Dan and Adam for keeping us afloat by regularly sending emails with half-baked and sometimes crazy ideas in this difficult period,” he said.

“Finally, I thank my colleagues at Microsoft Research India for providing a most nourishing and enjoyable working environment during the last year of this project.”

“We [all] are grateful to the prize committee and the AMS for choosing us for this recognition,” Srivastava said. “It is humbling to be told that our work has had an impact worthy of such an award.”

Srivastava, an associate professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley, double-majored in Mathematics and Computer Science and minored in English at Union College.

He received his PhD in computer science at Yale in 2010. After postdocs at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, and Princeton University, Srivastava moved to Microsoft Research India in 2012, where he stayed until 2014 before coming to Berkeley.

Read: Indian-American mathematician Nikhil jointly solves famous 1959 problem (December 4, 2021)

He didn’t like linear algebra as an undergraduate, but now works almost entirely on problems related to eigenvalues and eigenvectors in various contexts.

The Ciprian Foias Prize, awarded every three years, was established in 2020 in memory of Ciprian Foias (1933-2020), an influential scholar in operator theory and fluid mechanics.

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