Wie arbeitet eigentlich ein Fields-Medaillen-Gewinner?

June Huh hat die Fields-Medaille gewonnen, doch wie arbeitet er?

In einen Portrait im Quantamagazine finden sich folgende Goldstücke:

Huh himself draws parallels between the artist and the mathematician. For both, he said, “it feels like you’re grabbing something that’s already there, rather than creating something in your mind.”

On any given day, Huh does about three hours of focused work. He might think about a math problem, or prepare to lecture a classroom of students, or schedule doctor’s appointments for his two sons. “Then I’m exhausted,” he said. “Doing something that’s valuable, meaningful, creative” — or a task that he doesn’t particularly want to do, like scheduling those appointments — “takes away a lot of your energy.”

It’s particularly difficult for him to move his attention from one thing to another. “I think intention and willpower … are highly overrated,” he said. “You rarely achieve anything with those things.”

He loved to learn but couldn’t focus or absorb anything in a classroom setting.

“you’d think this guy wouldn’t pass a qualifying exam. He’s very slow.” So slow, in fact, that at first Wang thought they were wasting a lot of time on easy problems they already understood. But then he realized that Huh was learning even seemingly simple concepts in a much deeper way — and in precisely the way that would later prove useful.

Huh’s entire life is built on routine. “Almost all of my days are exactly the same,” he said. “I have a very high tolerance for repetition.” He has trouble staying asleep and usually wakes up at around 3 a.m. He then goes to the gym, has breakfast with his wife and two sons (one is 8 years old, the other just turned 1), and walks his eldest to school before heading to his Princeton office.

Huh typically takes a nap later in the morning — and a yoga mat rolled out on the floor (just for lying down, he said; he doesn’t actually know how to do yoga). No books, just a few stacks of papers neatly arranged on a shelf against one wall. In the corner is a vacuum cleaner. Huh likes repetitive, mindless activities like cleaning, dishwashing and the physical act of transcribing what he reads into a notebook.

He often works in the public library, in the children’s section, where it’s pretty noisy. “I don’t like quiet places,” he said. “It makes me sleepy.” Huh says this about many things.

He goes for a long walk after lunch each day, then returns to his office to do some more work (unless he’s already hit his three-hour quota) before heading home. He spends the rest of the evening with his family; they all go to sleep, together in one large bed, at around 9 p.m.

Huh can still muster only enough energy to work for a few hours each day. “Other people work one hour and just take a five-minute rest,” Kim said. “He is like, one hour do something else, and just focus for five minutes, 10 minutes.”

For Huh, when he is working, there’s something almost subconscious going on. In fact, he usually can’t trace how or when his ideas come to him. He doesn’t have sudden flashes of insight. Instead, “at some point, you just realize, oh, I know this,” he said.

Mind = Blown. 🤯