Transitioning from the isolating world of mathematical abstraction to stardom can be quite startling. A crowd of fans gathered around the somewhat reserved Fields Medal winner Akshay Venkatesh this afternoon during his autograph session. “A lot of people want to talk to me now. It’s not something we’re used to,” Venkatesh said quietly. A queue of people anxious to meet the Fields medallist quickly formed and despite his anxieties, he greeted and took pictures with dozens of enthusiasts with a friendly disposition and a smile on his face.
Although he did not live in India for long, Venkatesh was born there and is a role model for many Indian mathematicians. Manish Kumar arrived an hour before the start of the autograph session to ensure he would be the first in line, “I’m going to get his autograph, frame it, then put it in my office,” he beamed, “I want to show my students, it will be nice to inspire them. It’s a source of inspiration for all of us.”
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For Brazilian high school student Maria Júlia Duarte, it was a moving experience. “It was really great being able to meet a Fields medallist. I want to become a mathematics teacher.”