Israeli mathematician among ‘genius grant’ recipients

Maria Chudnovsky, a graduate of Haifa’s Technion Institute, is one of 23 named as MacArthur Fellows

Columbia University mathematician Maria Chudnovsky (photo credit: Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)
Columbia University mathematician Maria Chudnovsky (photo credit: Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

A mathematician raised and educated in Israel is among the 23 recipients of the coveted “genius grants” named this week by the MacArthur Foundation, alongside a diverse group that includes a mandolin player, a maker of bows for stringed instruments, writers, scientists and artists.

Maria Chudnovsky, who was born in the former Soviet Union, moved to Israel as a child and studied at the Technion in Haifa, will receive the foundation’s no-strings-attached $500,000 grant over the next five years.

Like the other recipients, Chudnovsky did not apply for the award, was chosen in secret and then informed over the phone with no prior warning.

Chudnovsky, 35, is currently an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University in New York. She was chosen for her work in a field of theoretical mathematics known as graph theory.

Her confirmation of a 40-year-old theory on graph classification has potentially significant applications in the real world, according to the foundation’s announcement Tuesday.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Technion, followed by another master’s degree and a doctorate from Princeton University. She has been at Columbia University since 2008.

Since 1981, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded grants to individuals who, according to the foundation website, “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The money is given to the fellows with no conditions, and recipients are under no obligation to report how they spend the money.

Nominations are anonymous, the balloting is kept under wraps, and the nominees only learn that were considered when they receive a phone call informing them they have been chosen.


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