Sophie Morel Named Professor of Mathematics and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard

Cambridge, Mass. - January 14, 2010 - Mathematician Sophie Morel, who works at the intersection of algebraic geometry, representation theory, and number theory, has been named professor of mathematics in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). She has also been appointed to the Radcliffe Alumnae Professorship at the university’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Both appointments are effective Dec. 15, 2009.

"Sophie Morel is among the world’s most promising young mathematicians working in number theory, algebraic geometry, and representation theory," says Jeremy Bloxham, dean of science in FAS. "Her doctoral thesis was extremely demanding and stunningly original, solving a problem that had been intractable for more than 20 years."

"Sophie Morel will enrich the Radcliffe Institute and FAS communities, and Harvard more broadly, with her groundbreaking research and discoveries in mathematics," says Radcliffe Institute Dean Barbara J. Grosz. "We are grateful to Radcliffe alumnae for enabling the recruitment of a distinguished scholar who embodies Radcliffe’s longstanding traditions of excellence and achievement."

Morel’s work lies at the heart of the Langlands problem, an area of number theory and representation theory that has shown dramatic progress over the past few decades. Her Ph.D. thesis solved the longstanding problem of calculating the local contributions at infinity to the Lefschetz trace formula for the product of a power of Frobenius and a Hecke operator acting on the Bailey-Borel compactification of a Shimura variety. She achieved this by constructing a new t-structure on the derived category of sheaves with constructible cohomology.

Morel then put this finding to use by turning to an analysis of the Selberg trace formula so as to be able to calculate the zeta function of Shimura varieties for quasi-split unitary groups and small rank symplectic groups. This shift necessitated mastery of a completely new set of techniques and a switch from a very challenging area of algebraic geometry to a very challenging area of harmonic analysis.

Morel holds degrees from Université Paris-Sud, which awarded her a Ph.D. in 2005. From 2005 to 2009 she was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute, an affiliation she will maintain until 2011.

Professorships at the Radcliffe Institute are designed to bring a succession of eminent individuals to the Institute and to attract outstanding faculty to tenured positions at Harvard. The Radcliffe Alumnae Professorship, endowed by alumnae and friends of Radcliffe, was established to provide the opportunity for newly hired tenured FAS professors to spend four semesters at the Radcliffe Institute during their first five years at the university. As the second Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, Morel will work among the Institute’s community of fellows.