IAS Fall Term is Underway with 272 New, Returning Scholars
By Donald Gilpin
Dedicated to “enabling curiosity-driven exploration and fundamental discovery,” the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) is setting forth in its 2023-24 school year with an eclectic mix of extraordinary scholars from a wide assortment of backgrounds and disciplines.
Ranging from post-doctoral scholars to distinguished professors, 272 new and returning residents are on campus, working alongside 25 permanent faculty and 20 emeriti faculty, representing 47 different countries and 105 institutions. They are all based in one of the Institute’s four schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Science.
The School of Mathematics is hosting a special year on p-adic arithmetic geometry, with a fall workshop November 13-17 and a spring workshop March 11-15. IAS math professors Bhargav Bhatt and Jacob Lurie are organizing the workshops and other p-adic-related events, seeking to “bring together a mix of people interested in various facets of the subject with an eye towards sharing ideas and questions across fields,” according to an IAS press release.
For the School of Social Science, this year’s theme seminar is focused on “the platform,” exploring how and why digital services or websites have grown in size, power, and influence in global society.
IAS professor Alondra Nelson, along with University of Michigan professors Lisa Nakamura and Christian Sandvig, will lead the seminar, which will consider such questions as “In what ways do platforms — such as biomedical technologies — structure, reorganize, and consolidate science, knowledge and markets? How does the dominance of private platforms produce forms of inequality — including along vectors of race, gender, class, nation, and region — and compel reimagining of public infrastructure? How do today’s platforms differ from the social infrastructures and architectures of the past?” the IAS press release states.
The press release goes on to cite four IAS scholars as “a unique cross-section of this year’s class,” including Brad Bolman, who is exploring the history of biology and knowledge about organisms since the 19th century. He is working on a history of mycology (the science of fungi), tentatively titled The Decomposition Book.
“Working in the shadow of a disastrous global pandemic and amid vital political debates about the meaning of truth, it has never seemed more important to me to study the contexts under which scientific knowledge is produced, shared, lost, and preserved,” Bolman, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2021, stated In a Q&A with IAS.
Shiyue Li is examining combinatorial aspects of algebraic geometry. She was awarded her Ph.D. from Brown University in 2023. As a scholar and researcher in the School of Mathematics she most enjoys “the freedom to wonder about fascinating things in nature, and the connections with other minds from around the world,” she said.
Weishun Zhong is studying the brain and AI in the School of Natural Sciences. He is applying tools from statistical physics to explore a range of issues “from electrons to neurons, from proteins to ecosystems, from financial markets to political voting.”
Zhong, who earned his Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 2023, found that a class in statistical physics changed the trajectory of his education. He dreams, he says, “of searching for simple rules that can govern complex systems.”
In his Q&A with IAS, Zhong described his enjoyment of science fiction ever since he was a child. “Being a researcher feels like living inside one of those stories, only this time it is actually real and written by the best scientists around the world,” he said.
Lindsey D. Cameron, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is working in the IAS School of Social Science on several projects in the area of algorithmic management, the gig economy, and the future of work.
Cameron, who’s currently writing a book that is tentatively titled The Good Bad Job: How Algorithmic Management Reconfigures Work, has served as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government, describing herself as “a hacker in my prior career in the U.S. intelligence community.”
The most recent faculty appointment at IAS is Maria Hsiuya Loh, an internationally recognized expert in early modern Italian art and theory, who joined the School of Historical Studies in July. She came to IAS from the City of New York Hunter College, where she taught in the department of art and art history.
She is best known for her work on Venetian art of the 16th and 17th centuries, especially Titian, and, according to the IAS press release, “has conducted groundbreaking work on originality and repetition and the emergence of the early modern artist.”
Among present and past faculty and members at IAS there have been 35 Nobel Laureates, 44 of the 62 Fields Medalists, and 23 of the 26 Abel Prize laureates, as well as many MacArthur Fellows and Wolf Prize winners.