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Christopher Hacon's exploration of how polynomial equations help scientists describe objects in multiple dimensions may be too esoteric for most people to grasp. But it has earned the University of Utah mathematics professor numerous scholarly awards, including his promotion last year to distinguished professor.

Now his work has been further honored with an Antonio Feltrinelli Prize, awarded by Italy's Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. The Feltrinelli prizes are Italy's most prestigious awards for cultural and scientific achievement, given once every five years per field. Hacon's prize, awarded in mathematics, will be presented at the academy in Rome this November.

"I am happy that the committee chose to recognize work in algebraic geometry, a subject that I was first introduced to during my undergraduate years in Pisa, Italy," Hacon said in a news release about the award. The honor comes with an award of 65,000 euros, or about $93,000.

"We have known for some time that Professor Hacon is a treasure for the mathematics department and the university," said Pierre Sokolsky, dean of the U. College of Science, in the news release. "It is good to see him recognized as a national treasure for Italy as well."

In addition to the polynomial equations studies, Hacon explores "the minimal model program," a field of research into the properties of complex projective varieties.

Hacon earned his doctorate at UCLA and joined the U. faculty in 1998, but taught at University of California, Riverside, from 2000 to 2002. He served the American Mathematical Society's prestigious Centennial Research Fellowship during the 2006 academic year, also winning a Clay Research Award that year in recognition for major breakthroughs in mathematics research. Hacon and his collaborator, James McKernan, a former U. postdoctoral researcher who now works at MIT, also received the 2009 American Mathematical Society's Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Algebra for ground-breaking work on the minimal model program in algebraic geometry.