A delicate balance

November 9, 2023

Ngô Bảo Châu

An interview with the new chair of Mathematics

Ngô Bảo Châu, the Francis and Rose Yuen Distinguished Service Professor, was named the Department of Mathematics chair, starting July 1, 2023. In the following Q&A, he discusses his priorities for the department, the exciting work of his colleagues, and his vision for collaboration.

As the new chair of the Department of Mathematics, what priorities will you focus on?

Our department’s current priority is in senior hiring. Our department is prominent in the Langlands program, where number theory and algebraic geometry meet representation theory. I hope we can hire young rising stars in this area to maintain our place. The same is true with analysis and geometry/topology. Probability is a fast-developing area of mathematics—I hope we can attract more talents in this area, possibly in coordination with the Department of Statistics. There is a delicate balance between keeping our prominence in some areas of mathematics and extending our presence in new areas. Still, we must relaunch the applied mathematics initiative, which was stalled some years ago.

What research in the Department of Mathematics are you especially excited about?

We have a vibrant environment where our faculty, postdocs, and graduate students discover new, beautiful mathematics. I get excited every week as I learn new mathematics from my colleagues and visitors.

Briefly describe the focus of your work.

The focus of my research work is on the automorphic representation theory and its relation with moduli spaces. I spend a lot of time working with my large group of graduate students and postdocs who share my research problems. The administrative work of the chair also takes up time. Still, I instill a collaborative approach in dealing with the department business so that it does not become overwhelming or impact my research.

What’s your vision for interdepartmental or interdivisional collaboration?

We should have more organic bonds with Physics, Statistics, and Computer Sciences. I want to work on this in my term as the chair of the Mathematics Department.

What sets UChicago’s Department of Mathematics apart from those at other institutions?

As mathematicians, we all want to understand simple—or not so simple—things more deeply. This may be true in many places, but it is especially true in Chicago.

A painting in the series
A painting in the series “Yellow Memory” by Trần Trọng Vũ

What would you like to achieve during your tenure as chair?

I want to ensure that in 5 or 10 years, the department remains a vibrant place for research and learning mathematics.

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?

Outside of mathematics, I like books, concerts, museums … and collecting art. A painting in the series “Yellow Memory” by Trần Trọng Vũ, a Vietnamese painter living in Paris, is displayed in my office.

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