Imperial mathematician wins Leverhulme Prize
15 December 2010
Dr Tom Coates, Reader in Pure Mathematics (Mathematics), has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize. The prize comes with a research grant of £70,000 and is awarded to outstanding scholars under the age of 36 who have “made a substantial contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievement is yet to come”.
Dr Coates studies the geometry of manifolds, or curved spaces, using techniques inspired by theoretical physics. Examples of manifolds include the surface of a sphere or the surface of a bagel, which are both curved two-dimensional spaces, or the curved four-dimensional space-time that, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, makes up the fabric of the universe.
Dr Coates intends to use the Leverhulme Prize to tackle a fundamental problem in geometry which has resisted attack for more than 70 years: finding the list of Fano manifolds. Introduced by the Italian mathematician Gino Fano in the 1930s, these are ‘atomic building blocks’ in geometry. Many other manifolds can be broken down into pieces that are Fano manifolds.
“I was surprised and delighted to receive a Leverhulme Prize. It will give a huge boost to one of my most promising research projects,” Dr Coates said. “I will use the prize money to bring my collaborators, who are scientists based in Tokyo, Kyoto and Moscow, to Imperial for extended visits. Collaboration in person is always much more effective than working over email,” he added.
— Adapted from a press release issued by the Leverhulme Trust