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Partially blind professor awarded for achievements in mathematics

Partially blind professor awarded for achievements in mathematics

Taipei, Dec. 29 (CNA) National Taiwan University Professor Chen Jungkai has been named a National Chair Professor in honor of his exceptional academic achievements despite suffering congenital loss of vision in his right eye. The Ministry of Education praised Chen, who goes by the English name Alfred, Monday for his accomplishments in algebra and geometry, including over half a dozen national awards for his research. At 44, he is the youngest of this year's eight recipients of the award, which carries a grant of NT$3 million (US$94,455) paid to each recipient over a period of three years. In an acceptance speech, he thanked his parents for supporting him throughout his life along the challenging path toward achievement. Chen, who received his Ph.D. in math from the University of California at Los Angeles, said he developed an interest in the field after he took part in a camp to prepare for the math Olympiad in senior high school. "There is a big distance between math research and what is needed to solve math problems," he said, citing his realization as a motivation to pursue advanced studies. While many people question the usefulness of studying math, Chen noted that math is hidden in our everyday lives such as payment processing and delivery logistics for online shopping, which use advanced algebra. He said that one reason students lose their interest in math is because it becomes very abstract in the later years of elementary school, suggesting teachers find ways to keep students engaged to avoid making them dislike the subject. That lack of interest is the reason that many choose practical majors -- those perceived to be able to earn more money after graduation -- but he stressed "the academic fields we can't see are no less important." (By Hsu Chih-wei and Lilian Wu)