Regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers in complex algebraic geometry, Dr. Claire Voisin, was awarded the Heinz Hopf Preis by the Department of Mathematics at ETH Zurich in late 2015. This prize is just the latest in a long list of distinguished awards for her work that involves the study of topology and motives of complex algebraic varieties.
It wasn’t until she began working on her doctorate that she began seeing mathematics in a new light. While she enjoyed math as a teenager for her mathematics was about being asked to solve problems where answer was already known so it held little interest, but upon discovering the field of algebraic geometry she saw questions still being asked and answers left open for further study and she found her current career path.
Algebraic geometry is based on the use of abstract algebraic techniques, many from commutative algebra, for solving geometrical problems about zeros of multivariate polynomials. After earning her doctorate much of her work has focused on Hodge theory, which can also be used to tackle complex algebraic geometry, including publishing books that have become used as reference on the theory.
Her work has garnered many awards including the Sophie Germain prize, the European Mathematical Society prize, and for her disproof of the Kodaira conjecture on deformations of compact Kähler manifolds she was awarded the Clay Research award in 2008.
The two parts of her work she has said she is most proud of were the proof of the Green conjecture for generic curves and the construction of compact Kähler manifolds not homotopically equivalent to complex projective manifolds. According to Voisin the purely algebraic role played by polarized Hodge structures in the proof was unexpected.
In 2014 she was selected to join Academia Europaea and is currently the director of research at the Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu in Paris.
Written by Angela Goad