In his introductory speech, Rector Ilshat Gafurov said, "The revival of the Lobachevsky Medal and Prize is the fruit of the collective work by the Board of Trustees, the Academic Council, and the International Council of KFU. The University aims to maintain the chain of generations and preserve its traditions."
Professor Marat Arslanov, Chairman of the International Jury, confessed that it was very difficult to choose from the 13 nominees, all of whom are distinguished experts deserving of the prize. The voting was made in three rounds, and the decision was announced on August 30th.
Many people had been anxious to see and meet Dr. Richard Schoen and finally had the chance to do so today. 2017 has been extremely fruitful for the winner, who had already received three other awards before he came to Kazan to triumphantly conclude the year. He is an expert in differential geometry. Professor Schoen proposed fundamental theorems on positive energy in the general theory of relativity and obtained a complete solution of the famous Yamabe problem on compact manifolds. He also made a fundamental contribution to the theory of regularity of minimal surfaces and harmonic maps.
The award was handed over by the Chairman of the State Council of Tatarstan Farid Mukhametshin. A banking card with 75,000 USD, as well as the coveted Lobachevsky Medal, were given away.
In his speech, Dr. Schoen noted, "I am proud and happy to be here today. It's pleasant that my wife and I have been met with such warmth here in Kazan. Lobachevsky's heritage is undoubtedly one of the major achievements of the world science." He then proceeded to a brief overview of his research and its links to Lobachevsky's work.
Mr. Schoen and Mr. Gafurov answered a few questions for the press after the ceremony.
Speaking about the award, the Rector added, "Basically, we are reviving a tradition laid by the Kazan Physical and Mathematical Society, when the award was funded not by the state but by trustees. The first prize - 500 golden rubles in 1895 - was funded by the interest from a banking account. We now intend to establish such a procedure. This year's award was provided by our trustees as well." He added that the award amount is the biggest in its history, and that it should now become biennial.
Answering to why he chose mathematics as his calling, Richard Schoen said, "I first became interested in mathematics when I was 13 years old. I was also interested in physics. However, later in college it became evident that I am not so good with lab work. When I started my graduate studies, I took up differential geometry and began to understand the ties between it and analysis. Differential geometry is closely linked to the relativity theory, so I have been engaged in both fields during my career."
Dr. Schoen admitted that he was baffled by how successful the year 2017 has become for him. He answered that it might actually be detrimental to receive significant recognition in a relatively young age because it puts pressure on a person to hold up to greatness. Getting appreciated later in life is better because you understand what's really important.
After that, the winner and his spouse Doris Fischer-Colbrie made a tour of the newly opened Lobachevsky Museum and laid flowers to the scientist's burial site in Kazan.
The day concluded with a grand reception in honor of the winner, with over 200 KFU executives and employees in attendance. Richard Schoen received many warm words from the guests and responded in kind, once again thanking everybody for the welcoming approach and expressing hope that his contacts with Russian colleagues will lead to new collaborations and meaningful results.