March 2, 2021

László Erdős receives Erwin Schrödinger Prize of the ÖAW

IST Austria mathematician László Erdős wins the prestigious science award

Mathematician László Erdős receives the Erwin Schrödinger Prize. © IST Austria
Mathematician László Erdős receives the Erwin Schrödinger Prize. © IST Austria

László Erdős, professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), shares the Erwin Schrödinger Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) with physicist Markus Arndt professor at the University of Vienna. The Hungarian mathematician Erdös is being honored for his outstanding research achievements at the interface between mathematics and physics, particularly for his pioneering work on random matrices.

In the 1950s, Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner was looking for a mathematical way to describe heavy atomic nuclei. The aim was to find the distribution of their energy levels, the so-called spectrum, because it defines many important properties of the atom’s nucleus. For larger nuclei, the known methods were insufficient to handle the complexity of the task. Wigner assumed that the random matrix was a practicable simplification of the problem.

The entries of a matrix, clustered in rows and columns, compactly summarize the parameters of an atomic nucleus. However, if the nucleus is large, so many interacting factors play a role that a square grid with quasi-random numbers can just as well describe the system adequately. The random matrix proved its usefulness in experiments, but mathematically the procedure remained largely an open quest.

László Erdős and his team took up this challenge and established many fundamental results of random matrices in detail. Their extensions to increasingly complex systems paved the way for the theory’s broad application. Apart from heavy atomic nuclei, random matrices are employed in telecommunications, in the analysis of artificial as well as natural neural networks and in big data statistics.

The Erwin Schrödinger Prize

The Erwin Schrödinger Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is awarded to scholars working in Austria, who have accomplished outstanding scientific achievements in the subjects represented in the mathematical and scientific class of the ÖAW. This year the Erwin Schrödinger-Prize is shared in the same parts by the Hungarian mathematician László Erdős and quantum physicist Markus Arndt.

About the person

László Erdős studied mathematics at Lorand Eötvös University in Budapest. In 1994 he received his PhD from Princeton University, where he worked in Elliott Lieb’s group. This was followed by research positions at the ETH Zurich and the Courant Institute of the New York University. After professorships at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the LMU Munich, he has been a professor at IST Austria since 2013. For his work at the intersection of mathematics and physics, he received an ERC grant in 2013 and was awarded the Leonard Eisenbud Prize in 2017.


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