Campus Life

Mathematician Earns Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

The work of Grigorchuk has influenced several generations of researchers in group theory, and he is considered one of the world’s great mathematicians.
By Shana Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science January 28, 2020

Dr. Rostislav Grigorchuk,
Rostislav Grigorchuk.

Rostislav Grigorchuk, distinguished professor of mathematics at Texas A&M University, has been elected as a 2019 recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award by Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in honor of his lifetime achievements in research.

Each year the Humboldt Foundation invites a select number of internationally renowned academics to spend up to one year cooperating on long-term research projects with specialist colleagues in Germany in an effort to further promote international scientific collaboration. Researchers whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and beyond and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge academic achievements in the future are eligible to be nominated for the award, valued at 60,000 euro or roughly $66,000. Grigorchuk was nominated by Bielefeld University Professor of Mathematics Dr. Alexander Grigor’yan and will be among the 2019 Humboldt Research Prize recipients honored at a June 2020 reception in Berlin hosted by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Recognized worldwide as an outstanding researcher in group theory and dynamical systems, Grigorchuk is best known for his discovery of groups of intermediate growth that now bear his name — Grigorchuk groups. This groundbreaking work in the 1980s provided a solution to the Milnor Problem on growth as well as to the Day Problem on non-elementary amenability. His 1984 paper, “Degrees of growth of finitely generated groups and the theory of invariant means,” announcing this discovery was honored with the 2015 American Mathematical Society (AMS) Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research and described as a landmark in the now-burgeoning area of geometric group theory.

“Grigorchuk’s work not only gave solutions to old standing problems but also discovered new exciting classes of groups,” reads his Steele Prize citation. “They found applications in the theory of fractals, holomorphic dynamics, spectral theory of groups and graphs, and theory of finite automata. … The work of Grigorchuk has influenced several generations of researchers in group theory. It would be impossible to imagine the modern group theory without Grigorchuk’s work.”

Grigorchuk also created a new direction in mathematics known as the study of self-similar groups. He is renowned for his contributions to the general theory of random walks on groups and the theory of amenable groups, particularly for obtaining in 1980 what is commonly known as Grigorchuk’s co-growth criterion of amenability for finitely generated groups.

Grigorchuk joined the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics faculty as a tenured professor in 2002. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Moscow Lomonosov State University in 1978. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, he was on the mathematics faculty at Moscow State University of Transportation (1978-1995), where he served three years as department chair; a leading researcher at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics (1995-2002); and a professor in the Department of Dynamical Systems at Moscow Lomonosov State (2000-2002). He was appointed in 2008 as a distinguished professor, Texas A&M’s highest academic rank for faculty.

Grigorchuk’s current research interests include group theory, dynamical systems, low dimensional topology, discrete mathematics, abstract harmonic analysis and random walks. He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematics at Kyoto in 1990 and was honored as an inaugural Fellow of the AMS in 2012. In addition to the 2015 AMS Steele Prize, his many awards include the Prize of the Moscow Mathematical Society (1980), a Fulbright Foundation Senior Fellowship affiliated at Columbia University (1990-1991), multiple  Russian Academy of Sciences awards in recognition of the best scientific achievement or best published scientific paper (1999, 2001, 2002), a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research (2009) and the Ukrainian Academy of Science Bogolyubov Prize (2015).

Since 2008, Grigorchuk has been editor-in-chief of the journal, Groups, Geometry and Dynamics, published by the European Mathematical Society. He currently is serving or has served for several additional mathematical journals, including the International Journal of Algebra and Computation, Journal of Modern Dynamics, Geometriae Dedicata, Journal of Algebra and its Applications, Algebra and Discrete Mathematics, Matematychni Studii, Mathematical Notes and Ukrainian Journal of Mathematics. He was honored in 2003 with special anniversary issues of both the International Journal of Algebra and Computation and Algebra and Discrete Mathematics as well as an international group theory conference held in Gaeta, Italy, to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Learn more about Grigorchuk and his research.

For additional information about the Humboldt Research Award and other Humboldt Foundation honors, visit Humboldt Foundation online.

This story originally appeared on the College of Science website.

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