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Victoria fellow wins top international award

Dr Denis Hirschfeldt, a postdoctoral fellow at Victoria University, has been named joint winner of the Sacks Prize in Mathematical Logic.

A top international award, the Sacks Prize is awarded for the world’s best PhD thesis in mathematical logic.

Dr Hirschfeldt graduated from Cornell University with his PhD in 1999 before coming to Victoria to work with Professor Rod Downey. His field of study, which combines the disciplines of mathematics and computer science, looks at what kind of mathematical functions computers are theoretically capable of performing. It has implications for helping computers to solve problems that they find hard and discovering what kind of tasks computers can potentially carry out.

Dr Hirschfeldt and Professor Downey are working on a Marsden Fund project investigating the structural aspects of computation. Victoria’s School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences is particularly strong in mathematical logic and theoretical computer science.

Professor Downey says Dr Hirschfeldt’s thesis is ingenious and technically intricate.

“On one occasion his creativity even surprised his supervisor, Professor Richard Shore. Shore was not aware that Hirschfeldt was working on a problem upon which he himself had worked very hard, and had long been unable to solve.”

“Shore and another mathematician, Khoussainov, finally solved the problem during an overseas trip. Hirschfeldt also managed to solve the problem, but in a completely different way. It was only when Shore returned to Cornell that he discovered that the long standing question had also been answered by one of his own students.”

Dr Hirschfeldt will take up a position at the University of Chicago when his Fellowship at Victoria finishes in October.

The Sacks Prize is given by the Association for Symbolic Logic. It is named after Gerald Sacks, a Professor of Mathematics who works at Harvard and MIT, and who has had many of the world’s most famous logicians as his students.

Victoria University Wellington

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