Akshay Venkatesh (21 November 1981 – ) is an Australian-Indian mathematician. His mathematical interests are wide but he lists his current field as “… number theory and related topics, especially automorphic forms and representation theory” on his Stanford University webpage.
Akshay grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and attended Scotch College (SC). SC is an independent boys’ school and it was there that it became clear Akshay had a genius mind when it came to mathematics. During his time there, Akshay joined extracurricular classes run by the state mathematical olympiad program, which was aimed at gifted and talented students.
It was in this programme that Akshay made some important appearances which demonstrated his prowess. At the 24th International Physics Olympiad in Williamsburg, Virginia, Akshay competed and won a bronze medal, aged just 11. The Olympiad is an annual event which, according to the official site, has aims “…of enhancing the development of international contacts in the field of school education in physics.” Participating countries field teams of five contestants, who must be under the age of 20 at the time of the competition.
Akshay had changed his path by the following year and entered the 1994 Australian Mathematical Olympiad and placed second. The AST is “…is a program from which about the top 100 students from the Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians and the Australian Mathematics Competition…” are tutored in preparation for possible selection for the International Olympiad. Akshay followed this with a silver medal at the “Sixth Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad” and then bronze at the Hong Kong venue for the “International Mathematics Olympiad.”
Only 13 years old, Akshay completed his secondary education and became the youngest student ever to attend the University of Western Australia. In 1997, aged just 16, Akshay received a First Class Honours degree in Pure Mathematics. He was the youngest student to achieve such success and also received the J.A. Woods Memorial Prize, which is given to the leading student of a graduating year group.
Akshay’s next move was to Princeton University to gain his PhD. This he did under the mentorship of Peter Sarnak – himself an award-winning mathematician – writing his thesis on “Limiting forms of the trace formula” and completing his degree in 2002, for which he had support from the Hackett Fellowship for post graduate studies.
According to Akshay’s page, where he makes his papers available to read, his mathematical interests are in “…number theory and various related topics. I like problems where there is interesting interaction between analysis and algebra,” and these have led to his receiving numerous awards and recognition in the mathematical world.
These have included the Salem Prize – awarded annually to a young mathematician judged to have done outstanding work, primarily the theory of Fourier series – and the 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize, and an article detailing the prize announcement (worth $10,000) is archived at “The Hindu.”
Akshay has held a variety of positions at various centers of learning, notably the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science in New York and his current position as a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. He continues to use unique ways to understand and evolve math, especially in the analytic theory of automorphic forms and number theory, representation theory, locally symmetric spaces and ergodic theory.