Associate professor of mathematics Lillian Pierce has been awarded the 2019 Joan and Joseph Birman Fellowship for Women Scholars by the American Mathematical Society. Pierce plans to use the fellowship funding to buy out teaching and to bring one or more collaborators to her home institution, thus reducing the effect of travel on her three young children. Pierce is particularly grateful to the Joan and Joseph Birman Fellowship for the purposeful flexibility of the funding it provides.
Pierce's research is in analytic number theory and harmonic analysis. Her work in number theory involves counting integral points on varieties and studying properties of class groups of number fields, for which problems she has developed new methods involving the circle method, sieves, and character sums. Her work in analysis focuses on oscillatory integral operators, Radon transforms, and Carleson operators, as well as their discrete analogues, which have deep ties to number theoretic questions.
Pierce grew up in a small town in California and was primarily home-schooled as a child. She began playing the violin at age four and was performing professionally by age 11. She entered Princeton University as a mathematics major but also completed a pre-med curriculum. Under the mentorship of Elias Stein and others, her interest turned to pure mathematics. She was valedictorian of the 2002 class of Princeton and a Rhodes Scholar. After two years studying at Oxford University with Roger Heath-Brown, she returned to Princeton for her Ph.D., which she received in 2009 under the direction of Stein. She did postdoctoral work at Oxford, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics as a Bonn Junior Fellow. She joined the faculty at Duke in 2014, where she is currently the Nicholas J. and Theresa M. Leonardy Associate Professor of Mathematics.
Pierce has received a Marie Curie Fellowship, an NSF Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, an NSF CAREER award, a von Neumann Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, and a Sloan Research Fellowship. She was awarded the AWM Sadosky Research Prize in 2018 and gave an AMS Invited Address at the 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM), a Bourbaki Seminar in 2017, and an MAA Invited Address at the 2017 JMM. In addition, this spring she'll present the lecture "Math, Music, History: 300 Years in 30 Minutes" at the 2019 National Math Festival on May 4 in Washington, DC.
Established in 2017, the Joan and Joseph Birman Fellowship for Women Scholars seeks to give exceptionally talented women extra research support during their mid-career years. The primary selection criterion for the Birman Fellowship, which carries a stipend of US$50,000, is the excellence of the candidate's research.