News Release

In a rare occurrence, UT Austin professors each snag the ‘Nobel Prizes’ of their fields in the same year

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas at Austin

Luis Caffarelli and Bob Metcalfe

image: Luis Caffarelli (left) and Bob Metcalfe won awards that are among the highest honors in their fields. view more 

Credit: University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin is the first university to claim winners of the top prizes in computing and mathematics in the same year. Mathematics professor Luis Caffarelli received the Abel Prize, and electrical and computer engineering professor emeritus Bob Metcalfe received the Turing Award. Both awards are considered the “Nobel Prizes” in those fields.

“On behalf of the university, I extend our heartfelt congratulations to Professor Caffarelli and Professor Metcalfe on these tremendous honors, which exemplify the impact and excellence of our research and teaching missions,” said Jay Hartzell, UT Austin President. “Not only have these world-renowned researchers made profound, global contributions to their respective fields, they have brought their knowledge and experience into the classroom to inspire and remind our students that they have the potential to make the same impact on society.”

In addition to being the only university to have faculty receive both awards in the same year, UT is also the only public university in the world to have two or more Abel Prize winners and one of very few institutions to have two Turing Award winners.

UT has had three Abel Prize recipients. Along with Caffarelli, the late professor emeritus John Tate received the award in 2010, and professor emerita Karen Uhlenbeck won it in 2019. Fewer than two dozen institutions worldwide can claim even one Abel Prize laureate.

UT also has had three Turing Award winners. Along with Metcalfe, the late professor emeritus Edsger Dijkstra received the award in 1972, and professor emeritus E. Allen Emerson received it in 2007.

Abel Prize Recipient: Luis Caffarelli, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics #1, College of Natural Sciences

Presented by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Abel Prize is considered the Nobel Prize equivalent in mathematics and one of the top international awards. Norway’s king Harald V will present the Abel Prize to Luis A. Caffarelli, who holds the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics #1 in UT’s Department of Mathematics. Raised and educated in Argentina, Caffarelli is the first Latin American mathematician to receive the award.

“I am very humbled by the Abel Prize selection committee and the unwavering support of my collaborators through my 50 years of work,” Caffarelli said. “We mathematicians begin our careers following the paths of those who have contributed to paramount scientific advancements. I have truly enjoyed every moment of my mathematical career. My career and collaborations have been a constant source of joy and inspiration.”

Caffarelli’s first breakthrough was creating a mathematical solution describing the smoothness of ice melting into water. He also was instrumental in another monumental accomplishment in mathematical physics – partially defining the regularity of the motion of fluids. One of his colleagues, UT mathematics professor Francesco Maggi, describes the problems Caffarelli works to solve as the very kind of theorem mathematicians try to prove – yielding results that, in solving problems, go beyond problem-solving and open up completely new directions. Maggi said, “I think that Luis’ impact has been made even greater by his legendary kindness and generosity, which, over the years and after uncountable many occasions to manifest themselves, have made him one of the most beloved members of the international mathematical community.”

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Turing Award Recipient: Bob Metcalfe, Professor Emeritus, Cockrell School of Engineering

Presented by the Association for Computing Machinery, the A.M. Turing Award is often called the “Nobel Prize of computing” and includes a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google. The award is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundations of computing.

Bob Metcalfe, who is professor emeritus in UT’s Chandra Family Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received the Turing Award for his invention, standardization and commercialization of Ethernet.

“It is dangerous to accept an award for developing Ethernet, which turns 50 on May 22, 2023,” Metcalfe said. “Over Ethernet’s 50 years, hundreds of people have earned some claim of inventorship. Join me in saying to these folks, ‘Thank you.’”

Today, Ethernet is the main conduit of wired network communications around the world.

During his 10 years at UT, Metcalfe was a fixture as a speaker and advisor for entrepreneurial groups and events across campus. He was a major part of Longhorn Startup, a fall course that gives students an opportunity to hear from entrepreneurs and then pitch their own projects. And he created a startup studio and salons within the Cockrell School to help professors and students sharpen their startup ideas.

“Bob has made several important contributions to the tech industry. His invention of Ethernet revolutionized how everyone interacts with computers and each other,” said Roger Bonnecaze, Dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “This prestigious award is very well-deserved indeed!”

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Both Caffarelli and Metcalfe also have spouses on UT faculty. Irene Gamba holds the the W.A. Tex Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Computational Engineering and Sciences III in the Department of Mathematics and leads the applied mathematics group at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Robyn Metcalfe is director of the UT Nutrition Institute and is a lecturer in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

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