Melanie Matchett Wood is one of a group of four researchers who have recently come out with a model that upends the conventional wisdom in their field. They have used intensive computational data to suggest that for decades, if not longer, prevailing opinion about a fundamental concept has been wrong.
The model, which was posted online in 2016 and is forthcoming in the Journal of the European Mathematical Society, concerns a venerable mathematical concept known as the “rank” of an algebraic equation. The rank is a tidy way of characterizing an infinite set of rational solutions with just a single number. “It’s sort of the best possible way of describing rational solutions for these curves,” said Bjorn Poonen, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-author of the model along with Park, John Voight of Dartmouth College, and Melanie Matchett Wood of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.