Karen Uhlenbeck Wins The Abel Prize & It’s The First Time The Math Award Goes To A Woman

Men often seem to receive more recognition for their work in the field of mathematics than women do. But for the first time in its history, the Abel Prize went to mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck, according to CNN on Tuesday. The 76-year-old is a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, and now, the first woman to ever receive the prestigious Abel award. The Abel is considered the equivalent of the Nobel prize for mathematicians, according to CNN.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters stated in a press release that Uhlenbeck received the award "for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry, and mathematical physics."

The Abel Prize was first established by the government of Norway in 2002, according to the Abel Prize website. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announces the decision based on the collective recommendation from the Abel Prize committee. The award is then given by the King of Norway. There's a pretty good deal of money involved, too. The lucky winner is rewarded with six million kroner, the Norwegian currency, which amounts to a little over $700,000 American dollars.

Various members of the University of Texas at Austin have celebrated Uhlenback's achievement. Paul Goldbart, who is the dean of the University of Texas' College of Natural Sciences, showered the professor with praise in a press statement.

"Uhlenbeck's research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics," Goldbart stated. "Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time."

Thomas Chen, the chair of the university's department of mathematics, said in a press statement that Uhlenbeck "transformed the fabric of the department with her broad view of mathematics and beyond."

"Her insatiable curiosity fuels both her deep vision in mathematics and wisdom in the human sphere, which is evident in her legendary generosity and attention to mentoring young mathematicians," Chen added.

According to the University of Texas at Austin, Uhlenbeck also spearheaded several programs for mentoring and pushing students forward, especially women, to study math. Those groups include the Saturday Morning Math Group, the Women and Mathematics program, the Distinguished Women in Mathematics series for lectures, and the Park City Mathematics Institute.

The president of the University of Texas at Austin, Gregory L. Fenves, said in a press release that Uhlenbeck was "an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor to thousands of UT students, motivating them to reach great heights in their academic and professional lives."

Citing her professional record and the zest with which she taught mathematics, Fenves stated, "The Abel Prize is the highest honor in mathematics, and it is one that Professor Uhlenbeck richly deserves."

If you're interested in listening to Uhlenbeck deliver a lecture, you can check her out on YouTube, where the affable professor breaks down tough concepts for her students.