Mathematics can help to solve day-to-day problems, says acclaimed Vietnamese don

Vietnamese-French mathematician Prof Ngo Bai Chau gives a lecture during the Global Young Scientist Summit in 2020. PHOTO: NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION

SINGAPORE - Mathematics has a part to play in daily life, says Professor Ngo Bao Chau, an acclaimed Vietnamese professor.

It has contributed to many developments throughout history, such as in architecture and building design, with the great pyramids of ancient Egypt being one of the earliest examples.

Computers and smartphones today owe their genesis to British mathematician Alan Turing, whose work to decode German messages during World War II ultimately delivered victory to Allied forces.

But, said Prof Ngo: "In everybody's life, we face many cause-and-effect questions where mathematics could play a great role in helping us to formulate some answers.

"On a more practical note, to make a reasonable decision when we only have limited information at our disposal, some knowledge of probability could be helpful."

Prof Ngo, a faculty member at the University of Chicago, will be speaking at this year's Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS), a gathering in Singapore of young scientists and researchers from all over the world.

It will take place virtually from Jan 17 to 21, and is organised by the Singapore's National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister's Office.

In 2010, Prof Ngo won the Fields medal, one of the most prestigious mathematics awards, for proving a theory that was first developed in 1979.

The theory, dubbed the Langlands program, connects two branches of mathematics: number theory and group theory. It took 30 years to find the final piece of the puzzle - the fundamental lemma - thanks to Prof Ngo.

Speaking to The Straits Times, he said that winning the accolade has had many consequences on his work.

"The recognition of the medal gives me the opportunity to work with many colleagues and students.

"In my home country, the medal was instrumental in founding in 2011 the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics, which has been playing an important role in promoting research in mathematics," he said.

Prof Ngo said scientific research has become more democratic for young scientists today.

He added: "It has become much easier to access quality information no matter what country you are in.

"I do not dissociate research from teaching. Sharing knowledge and listening to young people motivates me to do research. Attempting to give the best responses to the questions of my students often makes me better understand what I am studying and can give me new ideas."

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also NRF's chairman, will deliver the opening address at the 10th edition of the GYSS.

Some of the topics discussed will include preparing for the next pandemic, next-generation energy solutions, and start-up opportunities for young scientists.

The lectures and plenary sessions are available for the public to watch on NRF's YouTube channel.

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