The 2018 IMA Prize in Mathematics and its Applications has been awarded to Anders Hansen. Hansen leads the Applied Functional and Harmonic Analysis group within the Cambridge Centre for Analysis at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). He is a Reader (Associate Professor) in mathematics at DAMTP, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oslo, and a Royal Society University Research Fellow.

Established in 2014, the IMA Prize is awarded annually to a mathematical scientist who received his/her Ph.D. degree within 10 years of the nomination year. The award recognizes an individual who has made a transformative impact on the mathematical sciences and their applications. Hansen’s work in computational mathematics, and in particular for his development of the solvability complexity index and its corresponding classification hierarchy, formed the basis for this year’s recognition.

Hansen describes his work this way, “My research is divided roughly into two main categories: (1) foundations of computational mathematics and (2) applied functional and harmonic analysis. The first category is about determining the boundaries of what computers can achieve in scientific computing and the second category is about using functional and harmonic analysis to solve problems in the sciences. The two fields have traditionally been rather disconnected, however, there are in fact many connections, and many rather diverse applications for example in: (a) quantum physics and chemistry, (b) medical imaging, (c) deep learning and data science, (d) pure mathematics and computer assisted proofs.”

Though his original plan was to become a jazz guitarist, Hansen confesses that a strong interest in mathematics drove him to obtain his Ph.D. at King’s College, University of Cambridge. Says Hansen, “My PhD studies with Arieh Iserles gave me a solid background in numerical analysis as well as a broad view on computational mathematics that has indeed had a profound impact on my work.”

As for the major influences on his career so far, Hansen cites Steve Smale for his program on the foundations of computational mathematics, the early papers of Curt McMullen, Emmanuel Candes for his work on convex optimization, Ron DeVore for non-linear approximation theory, and finally, fellow King’s College alumnus, Alan Turing.

Hansen has a number of projects that he is currently working on. One that falls squarely within the purview of recent IMA programming is enhancing resolution in medical imaging. “We are now in the starting phase of a project with hospitals where we use our resolution enhancing techniques to help radiologists and clinicians potentially provide diagnoses based on medical imaging that are as accurate as diagnoses made after biopsy. The hope is to use the techniques to provide new knowledge of the long term effects of immunotherapy, a method that resulted in the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2018,” explains Hansen.

In receiving the award, Hansen notes the importance of the IMA and the honor of having been chosen. The prize consists of a certificate and a cash award of $3,000. Funding for the IMA Prize in Mathematics and its Applications is made possible by generous donations of friends of the IMA.