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Princeton mathematics professor June Huh and Melanie Matchett Wood GS ’09 named 2022 MacArthur Fellows

<h5>June Huh, left, and Melanie Matchett Wood, right</h5>
<h6>MacArthur Foundation / CC 4.0</h6>
June Huh, left, and Melanie Matchett Wood, right
MacArthur Foundation / CC 4.0

On Oct. 12, Professor of Mathematics June Huh and Melanie Matchett Wood GS ’09 were announced among the recipients of the 2022 MacArthur fellowship — colloquially known as the “Genius Grant.”

The two mathematicians will each receive a “no-strings-attached” grant of $800,000 over the next five years. This is an increase of $175,000 from $625,000, which was the amount given since 2013.

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The last time a mathematician was among the recipients of the MacArthur Grant was 2018, when Allan Sly, also a mathematics professor at Princeton, received the award. 

Huh received the grant for “discovering underlying connections between disparate areas of mathematics and proving long-standing mathematical conjectures,” according to the award statement. He was also awarded the 2022 Fields Medal — often referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics — earlier this year. 

“I feel gratitude to my teachers, friends, and collaborators. They are the source of all my mathematical outputs,” Huh wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “As I grow older, I am becoming more convinced that the greatest ideas are ‘in between’ us. They reveal themselves as we interact with each other.”

Professor of Mathematics Noga Alon told the ‘Prince’ that “what’s special about [Huh] as a mathematician is that he sees connections between completely unrelated areas.”

“And also on a personal level, he is very very artistic, very humble,” Alon said. 

In his email to the ‘Prince,’ Huh also expressed his excitement in meeting other MacArthur fellows.

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“Mathematics is great, and I love doing mathematics and being immersed in it, but it sometimes gives you a tunnel vision that makes you see only certain things in a certain way,” he wrote. “We are living in a world that is big and small at the same time, and there are so many people doing so many different things in it, and all these people and what they do are intertwined in an intricate way.”

This semester, Huh is teaching MAT457: Algebraic Geometry. He wrote that he is “learning a lot this semester by teaching an introductory course in algebraic geometry.” Huh explained that this is “the first time [he is] teaching such a course, and in a sense, the first time [he is] taking such a course.”

Wood is currently a mathematics professor at Harvard. According to the MacArthur Foundation, she received the award for “addressing foundational questions in number theory from the perspective of arithmetic statistics.” 

“I feel excited and really overwhelmed. It's hard to believe,” Wood said in an interview with ‘Prince.’ “One thing that is particularly significant to me is how [the award] recognizes the creativity and originality that it takes to solve math problems.” 

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For Wood, the turning point that made her interested in math was a seventh grade math competition called MathCounts. That was the first time she was seeing problems that no one had taught her how to solve. 

Wood also reflected on her excitement for winning this award alongside Huh. 

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be in the company of June Huh,” she said. “I am a tremendous admirer of his work, and so I’d say it’s a very big honor.” 

During her time at Princeton, Wood completed her thesis under the mentorship of Manjul Bhargava, the Robert C. Gunning GS ’55 and R. Brandon Fradd ’83 Professor in Mathematics. Bharvaga won the Fields Medal in 2014. 

“Melanie’s work has been consistently awesome ever since she was an undergraduate, and has been steadily gaining in strength over the years,” Bhargava wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “[Her] work is characterized by great vision, ingenuity, and problem solving, and is constantly transforming the field in fundamental and often unexpected ways.”

“This award is truly well deserved, and I'm sure it will help lead to even greater things from her in the future,” he added.

Mahya Fazel-Zarandi is a staff writer for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached by email at mahyaf@princeton.edu or on Twitter @MahyaFazel.

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