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KTH mathematician praised in U.S. Congress

Published Feb 12, 2013

It's not every day that the subject of mathematical research is raised in the United States Congress. But a California congressman recently praised KTH Professor Mats Boij's ground-breaking work in mathematics during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney referred to Boij’s work on what is known as the “Boij-Söderberg theory” while speaking about important research being done on vector bundles at the Berkeley Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI).

Addressing the House during a one-minute time period that is allotted to congressmen each business day, NcNerney said that the research at MSRI is based on the Boij-Söderberg theory, and that it will seek ways to extend the theory into new places, such as spheres.

Professor Mats Boij

“It's because of efforts like this that the U.S. continues to be a leader in innovation,” he told Congress.

Boij, who is currently at MSRI conducting further research on the Boij-Söderberg theory, was surprised when he heard about all the attention.

"Obviously it was nice being mentioned. It is rare for mathematics to be brought up at all in Congress. Most mathematicians that I have heard from have been very surprised," Boij says.

"I think that McNerney, as a mathematician, sees that mathematics is overlooked in politics, despite being the foundation for many of our technological advances,” Boij says. “Perhaps it was random chance that he chose to bring up the Boij-Söderberg theory. But clearly it shows that there are those who think that the theory has contributed to major advances in abstract mathematics."

The Boij-Söderberg theory was created a few years ago, when Boij and PhD student Jonas Söderberg made a ground-breaking discovery in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry.

"We attempted to prove an idea that has been an interesting subject to many for more than a decade, and we noticed that you could explain the phenomena by studying a more fundamental structure in the algebraic objects in question."

This approach, and the results that have been produced by applying it, have since been called the Boij-Söderberg theory. The theory has led to a number of advances in recent years.

Read the full text of U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney's speech in the Congressional Record.

Text: Christer Gummeson