AWM Microsoft Research Prize in Algebra and Number Theory 2018


The 2018 AWM Microsoft Research Prize in Algebra and Number Theory is presented to Professor Melanie Matchett Wood, in recognition of her exceptional research achievements in Number Theory and Algebraic Geometry.

Melanie Matchett Wood received her doctorate in 2009 from Princeton University. She is currently a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after appointments at the American Institute of Mathematics, Stanford University, and Mathematical Science Research Institute.

Wood has made deep and influential contributions to number theory and algebraic geometry. She excels at drawing connections between different areas of mathematics. Her work is a truly remarkable synthesis of number theory, algebraic geometry, topology, and probability. In arithmetic statistics, Wood, with her coauthors, gave the first heuristic account
of the variation of the Mordell-Weil rank in families of elliptic curves, which predicts in particular, contrary to widely held belief among the research community, that elliptic curves over the rationals have absolutely bounded rank. Her joint work with Vakil suggests that the limiting behavior of many natural families of varieties should stabilize in a motivic sense. These results and conjectures have attracted considerable attention and spawned a substantial amount of follow-up research. More recently, she determined the behavior of the sandpile group of a random graph, thus proving an important conjecture in tropical geometry.
Beyond her outstanding scientific achievements, Wood has assumed many leadership roles in directing undergraduate research and promoting participation of women and girls in mathematics. She coached the first United States team to participate in the China Girls Math Olympiad, an international competition with a proof-based format. She is considered one of the most visible role models for a whole generation of American young women in mathematics. AWM congratulates Melanie Matchett Wood for her well-deserved AWM Microsoft Research Prize.


I am deeply honored to receive this award. I would like to thank the AWM and Microsoft for their generosity in establishing this prize. I have been lucky to have many amazing mentors and roles models in mathematics, from a very early age. Moreover, the joy I get from working with my collaborators is a continual inspiration in my research. I would like to thank all my mentors and collaborators, and mention in particular Joseph Gallian, Manjul Bhargava, Ravi Vakil, Lillian Pierce, Jordan Ellenberg, and Nigel Boston. Thank you as well to my mentors and colleagues who nominated me for this award. I would like to especially thank the American Institute of Mathematics and the Packard Foundation for providing me flexible funding early in my career, which allowed me to take risks like looking far afield in mathematics for the answers to my questions in number theory. Finally, I would like to thank the University of Wisconsin-Madison for its flexibility in letting me have a faculty position suited for how I wanted to balance my career and family.