MIT’s Tomasz Mrowka has received the sole Guggenheim fellowship awarded this year in the field of pure mathematics. According to the Guggenheim Foundation, the fellowships honor “men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” The 181 recipients this year were selected from among thousands of applicants.
Mrowka and his wife, Gigliola Staffilani, are both professors of mathematics at MIT, and according to Mrowka, they will spend the first three months or so of Mrowka’s 2011 sabbatical year “working quietly” in Florence, in Staffilani’s native Italy. From April to June, Mrowka will be a visiting professor at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at SUNY-Stony Brook.
Mrowka uses mathematical tools borrowed from particle physics to analyze three- and four-dimensional mathematical objects. One application of his work is in the field of knot theory, which deals with mathematical descriptions of complex knots and their higher-dimensional analogues. The work has implications for the study of biological molecules, which are often densely tangled; but it could also help particle physicists better understand the range and power of the tools that Mrowka has borrowed.