Columbia University Prof. Maria Chudnovsky , who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has been named one of 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012. The award comes with a “genius grant” of $500,000.
The 35-year-old associate professor in the department of industrial engineering and operations research is actually the second Technion graduate to win this worldwide designation in the past three years. The other is Cornell Prof. Michal Lipson, who received all three of her degrees in physics at the Technion.
The MacArthur fellowships annually go to 20 or 30 writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers and entrepreneurs who have shown exceptional originality, creativity, insight and potential. The award money is paid out over five years with no strings attached – the recipients may use it however they choose.
Chudnovsky is a mathematician who investigates the fundamental principles of graph theory. In practical terms, this highly abstract research can be used to solve real-world problems, such as efficient scheduling for an airline or package delivery service. She is laying the conceptual foundations for deepening the connections between graph theory and other major branches of mathematics, such as linear programming, geometry and complexity theory.
Chudnovsky received her first degree in 1996 and her second in 1999 at the Technion. She went on for a second master’s and a PhD at Princeton University, where she was a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute prior to joining the faculty of Columbia.