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Peking University pockets nearly half of all awards in global math competition

West Gate of Peking University

Students and alumni from Peking University (PKU) scored big wins in the 2022 Alibaba Global Mathematics Competition, clinching 35 of the 77 total awards, according to the list of winners released on September 26.

They stood out from over 50,000 contestants from dozens of countries and took home 3 (of four) gold, 2 (of six) silver and 5 (of ten) bronze awards plus 25 (of 57) honorable mentions, making Peking University the most decorated university in this year’s competition.

Amongst the 4 winners of the Gold Award were Chen Zekun, a PhD candidate from Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research (BICMR), PKU, Lu Weixiao and Rao Zhenghao—both are PKU alumni. Upon the announcement of the awards, the three shared the strong and special bonds they have formed with mathematics.

For Chen Zekun, whose academic interest is number theory, doing research is like groping in a gigantic maze with just one exit, and the “maze runners” are, for most of the time in a day, “heading towards a dead-end, or wandering between one dead-end to another.” Yet still, Chen is doing every research with an undamped ardor. “Because during the process, you can come across many ‘Aha!’ moments, which are a lot of fun,” he added.

Lu Weixiao, a PKU alumnus who is pursuing his PhD degree at MIT, expressed his indelible and unabated admiration for his alma mater and for mathematics. “It is no exaggeration to say that Peking University is a paradise for math students,” he said, recalling the conducive environment at PKU.

Drawing from his research experience, Rao Zhenghao illustrated how he enjoyed the process of solving math problems—despite that the problem-solving can lead to no solution sometimes. “I’ve found solving geometry problems quite interesting and relatively concrete,” he said, “I also revel in the experience of drawing, and sometimes a piece of a clear and intuitive graph can enlighten my thinking. This is one of the reasons why I’ve chosen geometric topology as my research direction.”

In the turn of the century, a cadre of talents appeared at Peking University who made breakthroughs in the field of mathematics that commanded global attention, and they were famed as the “Golden Generation.” Twenty years later, the “Golden Generation” has added new lusters as a batch of rising young stars have emerged.

In his congratulations to the awardees of the competition, the Director of BICMR and Professor Tian Gang put it that each generation of mathematicians have their missions and the young blood at PKU have borne on their shoulders fresh expectations from the society. “They are at the golden age of their lifetime.”

Alibaba Global Mathematics Competition is open to math enthusiasts all over the world. The competition has been held annually since 2018, attracting a total of some 200 thousand contestants from over 70 countries and regions.

Source: Peking University