Mathematics Prof. Bryna Kra elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Bryna Kra. The mathematician made a groundbreaking discovery in ergodic theory.

Source: Northwestern Now

Bryna Kra. The mathematician made a groundbreaking discovery in ergodic theory.

Gabby Birenbaum, Campus Editor

Mathematics Prof. Bryna Kra was one of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Sciences this month.

Kra is part of a historic contingent of female electees. This year, women made up 40 percent of the Academy’s incoming group, the most women ever elected in one year to date.

Kra herself is a large proponent of increasing the number of women in STEM fields, including mathematics. She has run research conferences for women and started women’s mentoring groups at Northwestern as well as at Pennsylvania State University, where she worked previously.

Membership is given to those who are recognized for continued or distinguished achievement in an academic’s original research. Kra’s work is in ergodic theory, which deals with the properties of dynamic systems. Her work has included solving a question regarding the existence of the limit of specific multiple ergodic averages that had long foiled many mathematicians.

The discovery was mathematically momentous — Kra’s work revealed the role of nilpotent groups and their homogenous spaces in analyzing configurations present in sets of integers.

Prior to this honor, Kra was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, where she serves on the organization’s Board of Trustees, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received the Levi L. Conant Prize from the American Mathematical Society in 2010 and was awarded a Simons Fellowship in Mathematics from the Simons Foundation in 2016.

At Northwestern, Kra served as chair of the mathematics department from 2009 to 2012. She was the first woman to chair the department.

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