The Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage will be presented to Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Kaisa Matomäki (b. 1985). She is one of the world’s leading analytic number theorists. Analytic number theory, and prime number research in particular, has a long history and a number of classic unsolved problems. On the other hand, several recent breakthroughs, some of which are closely related to the research that Matomäki is doing, have attracted much current attention. Matomäki specialises, for instance, in the study of prime numbers, which may be described as the building blocks of all natural numbers.
“The distribution of prime numbers is one unsolved, complex problem,” Matomäki says. “For instance, does there exist an infinite number of twin primes, pairs of prime numbers that differ by two? Examples of such pairs of prime numbers are 11 and 13, and 17 and 19. The famous twin prime conjecture says that there are an infinite number of such pairs – but no one had actually been able to prove it.”
Another unsolved prime-number problem that has preoccupied Matomäki is the so-called Goldbach conjecture, which states that every integer greater than 5 is the sum of two or three primes.
“The work I do is pure basic research. Prime numbers are sometimes used in cryptography, for instance, but my own research is not directly related to encryption methods. It’s possible though that sometime in the future my research will have application in that context as well.”
Matomäki has shown great determination in pursuing her research and achieved a tremendous amount for her young age. She has a very high publishing profile, both in terms of quantity and quality: her 30-odd publications have all been extremely well received and contributed to advancing the work of many respected number theorists. She is bold in her choice of subjects and uses unconventional methods to tackle them.
Recently, Matomäki has been working closely with Maksym Radziwill and Fields medallist Terence Tao. This collaboration has yielded significant results in the theory of multiplicative functions. Matomäki and Radziwill recently announced a major breakthrough in their work on multiplicative functions in short intervals. In December, Matomäki and Radziwill will be awarded the prestigious SASTRA Ramanujan prize.