“I believe that all of mankind's aptitude is a mixture of genetics, culture, education and training.”

Cédric Villani, one of three Editors-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Journal of Functional Analysis is the recipient of the 2010 Fields Medal in mathematics. Professor Villani was awarded the prize for his work on proofs of nonlinear Landau damping and convergence to equilibrium for the Boltzmann equation..

In 2009 Prof. Villani was appointed the Director the Poincaré Institute at the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris.  He was awarded the Henri Poincaré Prize that year, presented by the International Association of Mathematical Physics.  He has served on the Editorial Board of Journal of Functional Analysis and was invited by the late Prof. Paul Malliavin to the role of Editor-in-Chief, joining Field Medalist Alain Connes and Daniel Stroock.

What first drew you to mathematics?

I could not say and it always looked like a naturally interesting subject to me. I don't remember a time when I was not interested in it. But after all, we all study it at school. I also had some secondhand books for math for children, which were quite nice.  

Are there any mathematicians, living or dead that you have particularly looked up to?

Oh yes,  so many of them! Well, when I set up my Web page, 13 years ago(in those days it was a big deal to have a Web page!), I chose 5"heroes" and put them on my page with some eulogies: Ludwig Boltzmann, James Clerk Maxwell (both of them physicists but with a strong mathematical inspiration), Mark Kac, Alan Turing, John Nash. I regularly lecture about John Nash and Henri Poincare, both of them geniuses with their specific style.

One must have wondered a number of times why a formula or a theorem comes so easy to a person while other cannot even decipher a simple problem. Is Math a part of one's genetic makeup? 

I believe that all of mankind's aptitude is a mixture of genetics, culture, education and training. Anyway the example of Ramanujan cannot be explained by just culture, education and training, so there has to be some genetic component. Why not?

 How important, in your opinion, is mathematics in Indian culture?

The respect for math is very important, for sure, and also the development of calculation recipes. India has produced a number of amazing mathematicians. On the other hand, the core of India's math education is very much applied, and there is a clear tendency in research institutions to, on the contrary, explores very fundamental subjects.

How should maths be taught? Because a lot of people say, "oh God, maths I can't stand it.

Nobody knows how math should be taught, probably because there is not such a "must-be" way of teaching. It depends on the teacher, on the child, on the society. Nowadays there are many opportunities to enrich the teaching, with online games, enigmas, advice, experiments, public lectures, etc. But eventually it depends mostly on master and student relation, not the method.

Apart from research and teaching, what are the future career options we can pursue only doing maths?

Doing only math these are the main areas. But if you allow for blending with other sciences, mathematicians can do great engineers, developers, algorithm wizards, and so on. The field is so full of opportunities that 'mathematician' was ranked several times "No.1 job in the world" by the American company Career Cast.

What research problems and areas are you likely to explore in the future? 

Problems at the intersection of geometry, analysis and classical physics are for me.

What advice would you give a young student trying to learn mathematics in India?

Widen your views as much as possible, and please travel widely for learning.

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