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Math money

March 3, 2008 |  1:03 pm

IrvineThe state's budget crisis has come down hard on public schools, with thousands of grade school teachers facing layoffs and district leaders closing programs and campuses. But, at least in some sections of the state's public education system, there still seems to be plenty of money to go around for hiring. UC Irvine is offering a salary in excess of $200,000, plus the benefits that flow from a $2.5-million endowed chair in mathematics, to woo away  Shing-Tung Yau from Harvard University, reports the OC Register.

Most people have probably not heard of Yau. But in the realm of mathematics, the 58-year-old is a superstar, dubbed the "Emperor of Math" in a New York Times story. His work earned him a Fields Medal, the Oscar of the math world.

Getting Yau to jump ship from Harvard would be a big win for UC Irvine and help it attract top students as well as financial support.

“He has rock star status there,” says UCI math professor Peter Li. “Undergraduates and graduate students come up and ask him for his autograph.”

The Chinese immigrant who earned his doctorate at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s achieved fame early in his career by proving the so-called Calabi conjecture

Now if Yau could only make sense of the state's budget.

--Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times