Veni grant for Simon Telen

NWO awarded a Veni grant to Simon Telen, who will develop new strategies for solving complicated mathematical equations and apply them to real-world problems.

Publication date: 17-12-2021

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) awarded a Veni grant to Simon Telen, who will start working in CWI's Networks and Optimization group in the course of 2022. Telen received the grant for his proposal 'New frontiers in numerical nonlinear algebra'. He will develop new strategies for solving complicated mathematical equations efficiently and accurately on a computer, and apply them to real-world problems.

In general, solving nonlinear equations is about the fundamental problem of 'finding the unknown X in complicated mathematical expressions'. It has many applications in other sciences, like robotics, chemistry, computer vision, economics and particle physics. X could, for instance, represent a configuration of a robot, or the equilibrium concentration in a chemical reaction. It may also correspond to the long-term proportions of susceptible, infected and recovered individuals in a pandemic, or to the best choice of item prizes to maximize profit. In this Veni research project, mathematicians will develop new theory and algorithmic tools for equation solving that will be tested on large problems from applications.

Although the problem of 'finding X' has been studied for centuries, it can be very hard to solve, even with today’s tools. An intrinsic difficulty comes from the fact that the number of solutions can be very large. Also, small changes in the equations can cause solutions to disappear, new solutions to appear or even cause the solution set to become infinite. Such difficulties require us to combine insights from different branches of mathematics in order to solve large systems of algebraic equations. This is the topic of the relatively new field called numerical nonlinear algebra, which explains the title of the proposal. 

Simon Telen obtained his PhD degree from KU Leuven in September 2020, with his thesis 'Solving systems of polynomial equations'. He is currently a postdoc researcher in the nonlinear algebra group at Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig.

Veni is part of NWO’s Talent Programme. NWO selects researchers based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative character of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge use. NWO announced on 16 December 2021 that this year in total 89 highly promising young scientists from the ENW and ZonMw domains receive a Veni grant, one of them being Simon Telen. The funding of 280,000 euros allows him to conduct independent research and develop his ideas for three years.

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