S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan, a professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, was today named a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers. Varadhan and the six other recipients of this year’s National Medal of Science will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year.
Varadhan, who has been recognized for his crucial work on probability theory, is the Frank Jay Gould Professor of Science and professor of mathematics at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. His scholarship has centered on the theory of large deviations—the probability of rare events. Varadhan’s contributions have provided a method for understanding a range of phenomena and his work has been employed in a variety of fields, including finance, traffic engineering, and biology.
In 2007, Varadhan was awarded the Abel Prize in Mathematics by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for “his fundamental contributions to probability theory,” which the Academy characterized as “hugely influential” and lauded for its “great conceptual strength and ageless beauty.” Varadhan is one of three Courant mathematicians to win the Abel Prize, which many consider to be the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics.” Professor Peter Lax was selected in 2005 and Professor Mikhail Leonidovich Gromov won in 2009.
Varadhan—a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society and the Third World Academy of Sciences—has been the recipient of other awards and honors, including the Birkhoff Prize (1994), the Margaret and Herman Sokol Award of NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Science (1995), and the American Mathematical Society’s Leroy Steele Prize (1996), an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Indian Academy of Sciences.
Varadhan received his B.Sc. honors degree and M.A. from Madras University, and his Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. He first came to Courant as a post-doctoral fellow in 1963 and has spent his entire professional life there, serving two terms as its director (1980-1984 and 1992-94).
The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics.
New York University, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, was established in 1831 and is one of America’s leading research universities. It is one of the largest private universities, it has one of the largest contingents of international students, and it sends more students to study abroad than any other college or university in the U.S. Through its 18 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and dramatic arts, music, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.