Mathematician receives Humboldt Prize

Victoria University Professor of Mathematics Rod Downey has received a distinguished Humboldt Research Award for his academic contributions.


Granted annually by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, the award recognises a researcher's achievements to date and is given to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. It is valued at EUR 60,000 (NZD $90,000).

Professor Downey from Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics is a leading expert in theory of computation, particularly the relationship between algebraic and descriptive complexity versus algorithmic complexity.

Professor Downey is the third New Zealander to receive the award, but the first mathematician from New Zealand and the first from Victoria University.

Just last month Professor Downey was awarded his seventh Marsden Fund grant as Principal Investigator. This puts him among an elite group of researchers to consistently win funding over many years.

“Professor Downey is a mathematical pioneer whose work has shaped research in a fundamentally important field—determining the limits of what is computable, the effectiveness of algorithms and clarifying our notion of what is random as opposed to deterministic,” says Dr Peter Donelan, Head of Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics.

“Having someone of Professor Downey’s calibre at the University has made it a magnet for some of the finest minds around the world, and it is a fitting acknowledgement that he joins some of the great names of mathematics of the last 50 years in being a Humboldt Award recipient.”

Professor Downey plans to visit Germany to work with colleagues from Heidelberg University who nominated him for the award.

Next year several events are being held to celebrate Professor Downey’s 60th birthday, including a symposium in Wellington and a month-long programme in Singapore.