Hee Oh wins 2018 Ho-Am Prize for Science

Yale mathematician Hee Oh
Hee Oh, the Abraham Robinson Professor of Mathematics at Yale

Mathematician Hee Oh has won the 2018 Ho-Am Prize for Science, a prestigious annual award presented to a person of Korean heritage for outstanding accomplishments in basic science.

The prize is one of five annual awards given by the Ho-Am Foundation and named after the founder of Samsung Byung-chull Lee (pen-named Ho-Am). It will be presented on June 1 in a ceremony in Seoul. Recipients of the Ho-Am Prize receive a laureate diploma, a pure gold medal, and a cash prize of 300 million Korean won (approximately $275,000).

Oh is the Abraham Robinson Professor of Mathematics at Yale. She grew up in Gwangju, South Korea, and received her B.A. from Seoul National University in 1992 and her Ph.D. from Yale in 1997 under the supervision of Gregory Margulis. She joined the Yale faculty in 2013.

Oh is a leading expert in homogeneous dynamics, discrete subgroups of Lie groups, and its applications to geometry and number theory. In her work, she has developed innovative methods to solve many longstanding problems in geometry and number theory.

In its citation for Hee’s award, the Ho-Am Foundation said: “One of her major achievements is the beautiful work on Apollonian circle packings, which originated from a theorem proven by the ancient Greek geometer Apollonius that given any three tangent circles in the plane, there are exactly two more circles that are tangent to all three.”

The foundation described the work as “a technical tour de force and involves a remarkable interplay of ideas from group theory, measure theory, and hyperbolic geometry.”

In 2017, Oh won a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her other recent honors include a talk at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2010, a joint American Mathematical Society (AMS)-Mathematical Association of America invited address in 2012, and a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Women Mathematicians in 2014. She was awarded the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics in 2015. She is an inaugural fellow of the AMS and a 2017 Simons fellow in Mathematics.

During my first math class in college, the professor made a rather surprising remark that ‘mathematics is beautiful.’ In retrospect my journey in mathematics was driven by curiosity about that statement and a desire to understand it,” Oh said.

As it turned out, it was a journey of appreciation and confirmation of the beauty of mathematics. For the last 10 years in particular, I have been fascinated by the subject of dynamics on hyperbolic manifolds of infinite volume,” Oh said. “I would like to view this recognition as an opportunity to share my enthusiasm about the subject with more people. I am so grateful to my collaborators for walking with me in the endeavor to see what was hard to see.”

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Jim Shelton: james.shelton@yale.edu, 203-361-8332