Wen Ching Li awarded the 2010 Chern Prize in Mathematics

January 24, 2011

Wen Ching (Winnie) Li, a professor of mathematics at Penn State, has been awarded the 2010 Chern Prize in Mathematics by the International Congress of Chinese Mathematicians for her outstanding contributions to the field. Established in 2001 in honor of Professor Shing-Shen Chern, one of the greatest geometers and Chinese mathematicians of the 20th century, the Chern Prize in Mathematics is presented every three years to mathematicians of Chinese descent who have made exceptional contributions to mathematical research or to public service activities in support of mathematics.

Li's research focuses on number theory. She studies the theory of automorphic forms and applications of number theory to coding theory and spectral graph theory. In particular, she has applied her research results in automorphic forms and number theory to construct efficient communication networks called Ramanujan graphs and Ramanujan complexes. Her thesis work on the theory of modular forms was cited in Andrew Wiles' historical paper in which the 350-year-old unsolved problem -- "Fermat's Last Theorem" -- was proven. In recent years, Li has revitalized the research on a field of mathematics known as arithmetic of modular forms for noncongruence subgroups.

In addition to her position as professor of mathematics at Penn State, since 2009, Li has been the director of the Taiwan's National Center of Theoretical Sciences -- established by the National Science Council (NSC) and recognized internationally as a major influence on current mathematical research. Her previous awards and honors include a NSC Distinguished Visiting Chair and a Mathematics Adjunct Professorship at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, from 2009 to 2011; a Mary Lister McCammon Teaching Award in 2008 from Penn State's Department of Mathematics; a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at National Tsinghua University, Taiwan, in 1999; and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship from 1981 to 1983. Li has held numerous other visiting professorships at universities in the United States and throughout Europe and Asia. In addition, Li has served as editor for several mathematical journals including the Journal of Combinatorics and Number Theory, the International Journal of Number Theory, Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, and Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. She has given numerous invited lectures at institutions in the United States and abroad. In 2011, she will be the honored speaker for the Distinguished Women in Math Lecture Series at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the Oliver Atkin Memorial Lecture speaker at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Before joining the Penn State faculty in 1979, Li was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and a Benjamin Peirce Assistant Professor at Harvard University.

In 1974, Li received a doctoral degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She earned a bachelor of science degree at National Taiwan University in 1970.

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