Braverman is awarded Abacus Medal

Mark Braverman, a professor of computer science, has been awarded the Abacus Medal for significant contributions to mathematics and affiliated fields by the International Mathematical Union in Helsinki, Finland.

Mark Braverman portrait
Mark Braverman

Braverman was recognized for “his path-breaking research developing the theory of information complexity, a framework for using information theory to reason about communication protocols.”

He was awarded the prize at the same event at which Princeton mathematics professor June Huh was awarded the Fields Medal, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics.” Also honored at that event was Elliott Lieb, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, Emeritus, and Professor of Mathematical Physics, Emeritus. Lieb was awarded the Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize for “deep mathematical contributions of exceptional breadth which have shaped the fields of quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, computational chemistry and quantum information theory.”

Braverman is the first recipient of the Abacus Medal, which honors distinguished achievements in mathematical aspects of information science. The Abacus honor is a continuation of the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize that was awarded from 1982 to 2018.

“Mark Braverman led the development of the theory of information complexity, the interactive analog of Shannon’s information theory,” his citation said. “In addition to his work on information complexity, Braverman has made contributions to diverse areas at the interface of theoretical computer science and mathematical sciences.”

Braverman, whose work focuses on theoretical computer science and its connections to other disciplines, said the Abacus Medal was a great honor for himself and his research group. He added that it’s “a great responsibility to the field going forward.”

The International Mathematical Union played a video profiling Braverman in which his children are featured illustrating the principles of some of his work.

Braverman was born in Russia when it was part of the Soviet Union. His family moved to Israel and then to Canada. He received a bachelor of arts in mathematics and computer science from the Technion (the Israel Institute of Technology) in 2001. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Toronto in 2008. After spending two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Microsoft Research New England laboratory and a year on the faculty of the University of Toronto, he joined the Princeton faculty in 2011 and was promoted to full professor in 2015.

“Mark’s list of accomplishments is astonishing,” said Jennifer Rexford, chair of the Department of Computer Science, noting the many honors Braverman has received since winning a Math Olympiad gold medal at age 16.

“Our modern networked lives rely on communication protocols that allow multiple computers to work together to compute answers to important questions,” Rexford said. “Mark’s ingenious research lays foundations for understanding how multiple parties can cooperate efficiently — minimizing the amount of information they need to share to complete their task.”

Rexford, who is also the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering and a professor of computer science, noted that Princeton’s computer science department has a long history of foundational research in computing. “With the growing role of computer science in every discipline and every human endeavor, pushing the frontiers of the field is more important than ever,” she said.

For more information about Lieb, see this story.

Liz Fuller-Wright contributed to this story.