Duong Phong
- Professor, Columbia University, USA

I have always been fascinated by the power of mathematics in explaining some of the most complex natural phenomena. Some of my greatest early thrills came from appreciating how calculus can explain Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and how much information is encoded in the deceptively simple Maxwell equations. The role of mathematics in formulating and exploring natural laws is expanding, and this is a very exciting development for the young mathematicians of the 21st century.

Mathematics is also distinguished by its mental discipline and uncompromising rigor. This aspect can be tedious at times, but it becomes particularly valuable in areas of science where experimental confirmation is hard to come by.

I should say that I find mathematics very difficult. Research is for me a constant struggle with my own ignorance and confusion, and no progress has materialized for me without its heavy toll in effort and frustration. So I cannot say that I experience often the almost childish joy described by many mathematicians when they work on their discipline. But I certainly share their intense satisfaction when progress is made.

In the world of mathematics, I have encountered some of the most brilliant, generous, and righteous people that I have ever met. It is a great privilege to live in this world.