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NYU’S Naor Wins 2008 Salem Prize

January 16, 2009
N-232, 2008-09

Award Given to Young Mathematicians in Field of Analysis

Assaf Naor, an associate professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has been awarded the 2008 Salem Prize for his contributions to the structural theory of metric spaces and their applications to computer science.

The prize was established by the widow of Raphael Salem in 1968 and is awarded to young mathematicians judged to have done outstanding work in Salem’s field of interest—the theory of Fourier series, an infinite series used to solve differential equations. Boaz Klartag, an associate professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Tel-Aviv University, also received the Salem Prize this year. Akshay Venkatesh, an associate professor at Courant, won the 2007 Salem Prize.

Naor, 33, works primarily in the area of metric spaces, which are abstract mathematical “universes” in which one can quantitatively measure the distance between any two points. These include distances measured in a three-dimensional world, in which the distance between points is simply the length of the line segment joining them, but encompass other areas as well. Metric spaces are also considered in Internet searches, where the distance between any two web sites is the minimum number of clicks required to pass from one site to another, as well as biology, where researchers measure the similarity between proteins, and in image processing, where one seeks to quantify the similarity between images.

Naor was previously a researcher at Microsoft Research and has been at Courant since 2006. In 2008, he won a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. Naor was one of 20 scientific researchers to receive a fellowship, which includes an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years. He also received a 2008 European Mathematical Society (EMS) Prize, which is given every four years at the European Congresses of Mathematics. Naor and his Courant colleague Subhash Khot are part of a multi-institutional team that was awarded a $10 million National Science Foundation grant this summer. Under the grant, the researchers are seeking to bridge fundamental gaps in our understanding of the power and limits of efficient algorithms.

Naor received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, a center for research and advanced training in computer science and mathematics, has long been a leader in mathematical analysis, applied mathematics, and scientific computation, with special emphasis on partial differential equations and their applications. In computer science, the Institute excels in theory, programming languages, computer graphics, and machine learning. Computer science and mathematics are viewed as living parts of the stream of science, not as isolated specialties. For more, go to

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Graduate School of Arts and Science

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