Professor White, Tutorial Fellow in Mathematics at St John's, received the award for his CSTAR Project

Professor Stuart White

ERC grants are funded by the EU and awarded to top-tier researchers in all stages of their career. Today, the ERC announced the winners of its 2021 Advanced Grants competition and we’re delighted that Professor Stuart White was selected as a winner.

Stuart's CSTAR project focuses on the structure and classification of operator algebras. One of the fundamental problems in mathematics is known as classification problems; in other words, how do we decide when two things are the same? An example is the classification of orientable closed surfaces by their genus (the number of `holes’). So to decide when two such surfaces are homeomorphic (roughly speaking that one can be deformed into the other), one simply checks if they have the same number of holes. The classification questions at the heart of this proposal are for C*-algebras, which can be viewed as non-commutative versions of topological spaces. These are abstract functional analytic objects, with origins in the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. A central theme of Stuart’s research is the transfer of ideas between non-commutative measure theory and topology, using results and techniques from Alain Connes’ classification of von Neumann algebras in the 1970s in the setting of C*-algebras.

Competition for ERC Advanced Grants was stiff this year, with 14% of applications, including only nine mathematicians, resulting in a successful award.* Funded through the European Union, ERC Advanced Grants are designed to support excellent scientists and scholars in any field at the career stage when they are already established research leaders, with a recognised track record of research achievements. ERC funding is for five years for a new research project, though this is, of course built on work started previously.

Commenting on Professor White’s award, the President, Maggie Snowling, said:

‘Many congratulations to Stuart on this prestigious award. He continues the stellar St John’s Maths tradition: Chris Beem and James Maynard currently hold ERC grants, and Jan Obloj also held a grant from 2014–18. Coming after Stuart’s award of the Whitehead Prize in 2021, this is a really significant achievement. Long may the success of SJC Mathematics continue!’

* The holding of ERC awards by researchers based at UK institutions is subject to formalisation of the UK’s association to Horizon Europe, which remains the stated priority for the UK government, in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed between the UK and the EU in December 2020. In the event that association is not confirmed by the final date for signature of grant agreements then the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee will apply, with UK awardees receiving equivalent funding via UKRI.

You can read more about the ERC grants here, and more about Stuart’s research here.