Stanford’s Emmanuel Candès among recipients of Princesa de Asturias Award

EMMANUEL CANDES, the Barnum-Simons Chair in Mathematics and Statistics, has been named one of four recipients of the 2020 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research.

Emmanuel Candès. (Image credit: Rod Searcey)

Yves Meyer, Ingrid Daubechies and Terence Tao were honored alongside Candès for their collective contributions to the field of mathematics, specifically in mathematical data and signal processing.

The Princess of Asturias Foundation’s annual awards were established in 1980, making this the 40th year honoring scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work at an international level. There are eight categories which include Arts, Communication and Humanities, Social Sciences, Sports, Literature, Concord and International Cooperation, in addition to Technical and Scientific Research.

“This is the first time the prize is given to mathematicians,” said Candès, who is also co-chair of Stanford’s Data Science Institute. Meyer, Daubechies, Tao and Candès were unanimously selected by the foundation’s jury for their development of two related mathematical tools: wavelets and compressed sensing, both of which are applied across numerous scientific and engineering disciplines.

Meyer and Daubechies led the development of modern wavelet theory, which allows images and sounds to be deconstructed into manageable mathematical fragments; the technique has found applications in data storage, compression and noise suppression. Tao and Candès collaborated on complementary theories of compressed sensing (or compressive sampling) and matrix completion, which enable the reconstruction of a signal from partial, noisy measurements common in medical imaging. A practical offshoot of this technology is rapid MRI scans, which greatly shorten the time needed to examine ill or young patients.

“It was a complete surprise to hear that I received the Princess of Asturias award,” said Candès. “It is also an absolute delight for me to be sharing it with the three other laureates.” According to Candès, Meyers had a profound influence on his scientific upbringing as one of his undergraduate teachers, Daubechies has served as a friend and source of inspiration, and he feels privileged to have worked alongside Tao.

Each of the Princess of Asturias Award winners is presented a Joan Miró sculpture, a prize of 50,000 euros (split in cases of co-recipients), a diploma and an insignia during a ceremony in Oviedo, Spain, which is presided over by members of the Spanish royal family.

“Spain is a country I am very fond of and visit every time I have the chance,” said Candès. “COVID-19 permitting, I will be delighted to attend the ceremony.” It is currently scheduled for Oct. 16.