PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University mathematics professor Richard Kenyon has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Cambridge, Mass.-based honorary society that includes the world's leading thinkers in scholarship and science, public affairs and business, arts and humanities.
“I am very honored to be receiving this recognition,” said Kenyon, the William R. Kenan Jr. University Professor of Mathematics at Brown. “The Academy membership includes people who are the giants of current mathematical research. I’m really surprised to find myself in such prestigious company.”
Kenyon earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1990 and has held positions at l'Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, as well as the University of British Columbia. He joined the faculty at Brown in 2007.
His primary research interest is in statistical mechanics, the study of how systems made of many particles behave. In particular, Kenyon develops mathematical models that describe phase changes in complex systems — when water turns ice, or when a disease moves from isolation to epidemic.
“While problems from nature — how water freezes, for example — tend to be out of reach using present methods,” Kenyon says, “we can nonetheless learn a lot about the behavior of complex systems as they undergo a phase change from simplified models.”
Kenyon attributes the success of his research to the colleagues, co-authors, and students he has worked with throughout his career.
“They have kept me motivated, encouraged my good ideas, or, more frequently, shot down my bad ones and provided ideas and moral support of their own,” Kenyon said. “Despite what some people think, mathematical research is a social enterprise and requires thinking in many different ways. It is constantly remarkable to me how effective it is in mathematical research to talk with other people.”
As a member of the 2014 Academy class, Kenyon joins winners of the Nobel, Wolf, and Pulitzer prizes; the National Medal of the Arts; the MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Fulbright fellowships; and the Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards.
The 204 members of the new class will be inducted at a ceremony Oct. 11, 2014, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
“It is a privilege to honor these men and women for their extraordinary individual accomplishments,” said Don Randel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “The knowledge and expertise of our members give the Academy a unique capacity – and responsibility – to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day. We look forward to engaging our new members in this work.”
Founded in 1780, the Academy is one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society. The Academy selects its members through a highly competitive process that recognizes individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large.