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The American Mathematical Society has named Thomas Chen, chair of the Department of Mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin, as one of 52 Fellows of the AMS for 2020. The Fellows of the AMS designation recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics.

"It is a great pleasure to offer my sincere congratulations to the new AMS Fellows, honored for their notable contributions to mathematics and to the profession," said AMS President Jill C. Pipher.

Chen was cited for "contributions to mathematical physics and partial differential equations, bridging between these two areas."

The tiny building blocks of matter (atoms, molecules, electrons and so on) are described by the fundamental equations of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. Those are extremely complex, but in order to describe the behavior of matter visible to humans — that is, at larger length scales and over a longer stretch of time — it turns out that it is not necessary to keep track of the motion of each individual quantum. Instead, the classical laws of physics allow for a very accurate description of the bulk behavior of matter; examples are the equations describing fluids, or Newton's equations of motion in classical mechanics. Much of Chen's work focuses on proving mathematically how various classical physical laws emerge from the equations of quantum physics in appropriate scaling limits.

Chen received a Ph.D. in mathematical physics and another in mechanical engineering from ETH Zurich. He served on the faculty at Princeton University before joining the UT Austin faculty in 2008. Chen received an NSF CAREER Award, one of the most prestigious honors scientists can receive from the federal agency as early-career faculty, in 2012.

Other UT Austin faculty who were selected as AMS Fellows in previous years are: Daniel Allcock, Todd Arbogast, William Beckner, David Ben-Zvi, Lewis Bowen, Luis A. Caffarelli, Elliott Ward Cheney, Jr. (deceased), Daniel S. Freed, Irene M. Gamba, Robert E. Gompf, Raymond C. Heitmann, John Luecke, Andrew Neitzke, Edward Odell (deceased), Nataša Pavlović, Charles Radin, Alan William Reid (now at Rice University), Haskell Rosenthal, Michael Starbird, John T. Tate (deceased), Karen K. Uhlenbeck, Jeffrey D. Vaaler, Alexis Vasseur and Robert F. Williams.