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U Professor Awarded $1.5 Million At 'Oscars of Science'

Breakthrough Prize
Christopher Hacon (right) at the 2018 Breakthrough Prize award ceremony. Hacon teached math at the University of Utah.

Every year, mathematicians and scientists from across the country get together for an event dubbed the “Oscars of Science.” This year, a University of Utah math professor took home a big prize for his work in algebraic geometry.

Christopher Hacon received the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, along with a research colleague from California. They split the $3 million prize between them and were honored at a star-studded event, hosted by the actor Mogran Freeman and featuring a musical performance from Wiz Khalifa.

 

“It was certainly more than a little strange for a mathematician but it was rather well done," says Hacon. "Not too painful, I rather enjoyed it.”

 

Hacon's groundbreaking research has to do with determining the volume of multi-dimensional shapes. Basically, shapes we can’t visually comprehend but can be depicted, in a sense, through a math equation.

 

It's a concept he's spent the last 20 years pondering. And now, Hacon says that because of it, he can pay off his house.

 

"And I’ll donate some to charity," Hacon says, "and I have six kids, so I’m sure they’ll have ideas.”

 

Hacon says he hopes this award encourages young mathematicians, which is the point of the Breakthrough Prize. Started by executives from companies like Google and Facebook, the awards are meant to show that even a math professor should feel like a celebrity for an evening—which, Hacon says, is more than enough for him.

 

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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