Berkeley researchers awarded 2024 Breakthrough Prizes

September 18, 2023

The Breakthrough Foundation announced its 2024 Laureates on September 14, recognizing two Berkeley researchers affiliated with the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Hannah Larson and John Cardy. 

Renowned as the ‘Oscars of Science,’ the Breakthrough Prizes recognize “the world’s top scientists” in the fields of life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. Now in its 10th year, the Breakthrough Prizes also honor early-career researchers with a New Horizons Prize in Physics, New Horizons Prize in Mathematics, and the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize. This year’s prize money totals $15.75 million, and the laureates will be celebrated on April 13 at a star-studded event in Los Angeles.

Larson, an assistant professor of mathematics, was awarded the 2024 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize, which is presented to women mathematicians who have completed their Ph.D.s within the past two years. Cited for “advances in Brill-Noether theory and the geometry of the moduli space of curves,” Larson joined UC Berkeley in 2023 and is also a Clay Research Fellow for 2022-2027. In response to her award, Larson shared, “I am honored to receive this award for my research on algebraic curves. Maryam Mirzakhani was and continues to be such an inspiration, especially to young women in math. To be given this award in her honor is very special.”

Cardy, an Emeritus Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford, was named a co-recipient of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Cardy was a senior researcher for many years at UC Berkeley. Focusing his work on quantum field theory, he published several papers during his tenure. He and co-winner Alexander Zamolodchikov (Stony Brook University) were cited for “profound contributions to statistical physics and quantum field theory, with diverse and far-reaching applications in different branches of physics and mathematics.” 

“We take great pride and are deeply honored to have these extraordinary talents as part of our Berkeley community,” said Steven Kahn, Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in UC Berkeley’s College of Letters & Science. “John Cardy was a cherished colleague during his tenure as a senior researcher here. His Breakthrough Prize comes as no surprise, as John's work has made an enduring impact and continues to inspire generations of scientists. Similarly, the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize is a well-deserved recognition of Professor Hannah Larson and the important contributions she has already made to the field of mathematics.”

The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri and Julia Milner and Anne Wojcicki. The prizes have been sponsored by the personal foundations established by Brin, Chan and Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Jack Ma, the Milners and Wojcicki.

Previous Berkeley winners of the Breakthrough Prize include Jennifer Doudna and Saul Perlmutter and his cosmology team in 2014, and mathematician Ian Agol and physicist Kam-Biu Luk in 2015. Mathematician Song Sun and physicist Geoff Penington were each awarded New Horizons Prizes in 2020.

Breakthrough Prize logo
Headshots of Hannah Larson and John Cardy

Hannah Larson and John Cardy, 2024 Breakthrough Prizes award recipients

We take great pride and are deeply honored to have these extraordinary talents as part of our Berkeley community.
Steven Kahn, Dean of the Division of Mathematical & Physical Sciences