Mathematician and Physicist Receive 2024 Frontiers of Science Awards
Photos of Adam Jacob and Jaroslav Trnka
Professor Adam Jacob, Department of Mathematics, and Professor Jaroslav Trnka, Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Two UC Davis professors were recently named as winners of 2024 Frontiers of Science Awards from the International Congress of Basic Science. Professor Adam Jacob, Department of Mathematics, and Professor Jaroslav Trnka, Department of Physics and Astronomy, were awarded the 2024 Frontiers of Science Award in Mathematics and the 2024 Frontiers of Science Award in Theoretical Physics, respectively. 

The Frontiers of Science Awards, according to the International Congress of Basic Science, honors outstanding scholarly research, with an emphasis on achievements from the past five years. Jacob’s and Trnka’s awards are related to publications representing breakthroughs in their fields.

Published in the Cambridge Journal of Mathematics, Jacob’s winning paper is titled “(1,1) Forms with Specified Lagrangian Phase: A Priori Estimates and Algebraic Obstructions.” 

"I would like to graciously thank my co-authors, who worked on this project with me, as well as the committee for selecting our work,” Jacob said. “We were interested in laying down the groundwork on a geometric equation which is the ‘mirror’ of a special Lagrangian graph, which itself is a very interesting type of area minimizing surface.” 

In mathematics, Lagrangian functions describe the evolution of physical systems and the external forces acting on those systems.

“We specified an analytic condition that would guarantee a solution to this mirror equation and conjectured that a more natural algebraic condition should work in its place,” Jacob said. “Our conjecture has generated a lot of exciting work over the last few years, and it has been solved in many cases."

In 2020, Jacob’s paper won a gold medal from the International Consortium of Chinese Mathematicians. 

Trnka’s winning paper, titled “The Amplituhedron” was published in the Journal of High Energy Physics.   

“I am very pleased to see my research being recognized with this award,” said Trnka, who in the summer of 2023 received an Incentives for Large Grant Award from the College of Letters and Science to further his work on the amplituhedron, which he and colleagues discovered in 2013. “The amplituhedron is a new geometric picture which describes the dynamics of interactions of elementary particles.”  

The geometric shape revamps current frameworks of the Standard Model of particle physics by reformulating and simplifying mathematical functions called scattering amplitudes, which illuminate all possible interactions between elementary particles. 

Jacob and Trnka have been invited to accept their awards at the July 2024 gathering of the International Congress of Basic Science in Beijing. The City of Beijing and the Yanqi Lake Beijing Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Application sponsor the event. Jacob and Trnka will also each receive $25,000 to be shared with their co-authors. 

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