“Alessio, exceptionally talented with a charismatic personality”

By Luigi Ambrosio*

“Alessio Figalli is a mathematician and, in particular, a problem solver, of exceptional talent. I can see in him the qualities which I believe fundamental to achieving success in the world of research, co-existing at the maximum level: speed and depth in the assimilation of the works of the mathematicians who preceded us, ingenuity, specific technical abilities, and the right measure of taste and ambition in the choice of his research topics. I would also like to add his personality to his talents: he is at the same time charismatic as well as very balanced, which makes him a well-liked colleague who is respected by our entire milieu and a sought-after research collaborator.
I am lucky to work in an institution in which interaction with students is often a source of great satisfaction. My first encounter with Alessio goes back to the end of his second year of studies at the Normale, when he asked me for some literature in order to further explore Geometric Measure Theory, the topic of his three-year dissertation, under the supervision of Giovanni Alberti. Right from the second encounter with him, which took place shortly after, from the questions he asked me about the texts he had read I realised immediately that I had in front of me an extremely talented student, who deserved to follow a special course of studies. In a short time our relationship became a lot more that the traditional professor/student relationship.

There is an element of enormous gratification in seeing our own students “grow” and in following their career, a sometimes extremely rapid career as in Alessio’s case. Personally I find this gratification to be comparable to that which comes from the demonstration or the discovery of a new and important finding. Alessio’s Fields Medal also indirectly rewards the strong traditions of Italian mathematics (Pisan in particular) in the fields of Calculus of Variations and Partial Differential Equations, thanks to the precious heritage of mathematicians from the recent past, in particular Leonida Tonelli, Guido Stampacchia and the great Ennio De Giorgi, all of whom were professors at the Scuola. A fundamental part of our educational success is the high level of education guaranteed, together with our own, by the Department of Mathematics at the University of Pisa. This includes all its activities, in particular the Mathematical Olympiads, which attract to Pisa and to the Scuola Normale many promising talented students”.

*Luigi Ambrosio, Professor of Mathematical analysis at the Scuola Normale Superiore