About the prize winner

Afonso Bandeira

Professor Alfonso Bandeira

Professor Afonso Bandeira, ETH Zurich, has been awarded the fourth Stephen Smale Prize for his pioneering work on the foundation of computational mathematics. Bandeira is an incredibly productive and versatile researcher who has successfully applied and combined concepts and tools from optimization theory, probability theory, information theory, statistics, theoretical computer science, harmonic analysis, and number theory to the design and analysis of algorithms for solving real life data science problems.

Highlights of his theoretical results include a new type of Cheeger inequality for the graph connection Laplacian (with D. Spielman and A. Singer), a remarkable theorem about an important class of Gaussian random matrices (with R. Van Handel), a variant of the “little” Grothendieck theorem for the orthogonal group (with C. Kennedy and A. Singer), guarantees for the Burer-Monteiro factorization of SDPs (with N. Boumal and V. Voroninski), lower bounds on the sample complexity of multi-reference alignment (with A. Perry, J. Weed, P. Rigollet, and A. Singer), and new understanding of computational-to-statistical gaps (with A. Perry and A. Wein).

Bandeira employed these theorems to advance our understanding of fundamental algorithms for data analysis. The applications include cryo-electron microscopy, community detection in networks, and phase retrieval. A beautiful example is his paper (with E. Abbe and G. Hall) that proves optimal bounds for exact recovery for graph clustering in the stochastic block model and derives an efficient SDP recovery algorithm that achieves the optimal bound.

Bandeira’s work spans a wide range of applications and delivers essential insights in multiple fields. It signals a very productive and talented individual with a breadth of vision that Stephen Smale exemplified.

The winner will receive a "Gömböc" as the prize insignia.

Smale Prize 2020 committee

Annalisa Buffa
Gunnar E. Carlsson
Maria J. Carro
Hans Munthe-Kaas
Klaus Ritter
Michael F. Singer
Agnes Szanto (Chair)