Professor Wojbor Woyczynski, team awarded top mathematics prize

Wojbor Woyczynski and colleaguesFrench science magazine La Recherche named Wojbor Woyczynski, professor of mathematics, and his colleagues winners of the 2013 Prix La Reschereche in the field of mathematics last month.

A multidisciplinary jury of scientists led by Albert Fert, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics, awarded the prize to teams in a dozen categories for the scientific importance of their work and the novel approach within their scientific field. The award highlights research at the crossroads of science and technology.

Woyczynski and fellow mathematics professors Sylvie Meleard, of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, and Benjamin Jourdain, of Universite Paris-Est and ENPC, won the award based on their 2012 paper, “Levy Flights in Evolutionary Ecology,” published in the Journal of Mathematical Biology.

“Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote a series of papers that say the mathematical models of evolution always show that tiny mutations over time create speciation, but the models are not supported by the digs,” Woyczynski said. “We proposed a model of evolution that permits jumps in traits, which is what is reflected in the fossil record. We thought it was a fun project.”

The three received the award, which, in essence, calls their paper the most significant in mathematics last year at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower. The paper can be read online. Woyczynski was especially pleased to receive such an honor in France, which has been considered the world capital of mathematics for 300 years, he said.

The jury also awarded prizes to teams in archaeology, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, the environment, health, neurosciences, physics, information sciences and technology.