UCLA professor Terence Tao, one of the world’s leading mathematicians, will deliver the keynote address at Harvey Mudd College’s 64th Commencement ceremony May 15 at 1:30 p.m. on the Harvey S. Mudd Quadrangle.
Student leaders Emily Fok ’22 and Vadim Mathys ’22 suggested Tao as the Class of 2022 commencement speaker because of Tao’s essential and innovative research in multiple areas of STEM. “We were impressed by the breadth of knowledge and impact he has had on the mathematical and scientific community. As a first-generation immigrant and a person of color, Tao also reflects efforts the scientific community is making toward being more inclusive of underrepresented and diverse groups in society. We found that all these aspects resonated with our graduating class, and we hope that he will be able to offer wisdom on overcoming adversity and achieving life goals.”
Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Tao completed his PhD in 1996 at age 20 under Princeton mathematician Elias Stein (a leading figure in the field of harmonic analysis), then joined the mathematics faculty at UCLA, where he was promoted to full professor at age 24. Now holder of the James and Carol Collins Chair at UCLA, Tao conducts research in the areas of harmonic analysis (an advanced form of calculus that uses equations from physics), partial differential equations, combinatorics and number theory.
Discover magazine praised Tao’s research on prime numbers, conducted with Ben Green, a professor of mathematics at the University of Bristol in England, as one of the 100 most important discoveries in all of science for 2004. Tao is also well-known for his work on the “Kakeya conjecture,” a perplexing set of five problems in harmonic analysis. One of Tao’s proofs extends more than 50 pages, in which he and two colleagues obtained the most precise known estimate of the size of a particular geometric dimension in Euclidean space. The issue involves the most space-efficient way to fully rotate an object in three dimensions, a question of interest to theoretical mathematicians.
In 2015, Tao was an inaugural recipient of the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for his numerous contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory. In 2006, he was the first professor in UCLA history to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, considered the “Nobel Prize in mathematics.” Other awards include the Crafoord Prize (2012), Nemmers Prize (2010), Waterman Award (2008), MacArthur Fellowship (2007), Bochner Prize (2002) and Salem Prize (2000). He has been named among the “Best Brains in Science” by Discover magazine and one of science’s “Brilliant 10” by Popular Science. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Sciences.