As a Princeton professor of mathematics since 1998, Sun-Yung Alice Chang's influence on new generations of mathematicians is one of strength and encouragement.
Chang, a native of China and Taiwan, received her bachelor's degree from the National Taiwan University in 1970. She attended graduate school at University of California-Berkeley, where she wrote her doctoral thesis in 1974 under the supervision of Donald Sarason.
Before arriving at Princeton, Chang taught at the University of California-Los Angeles. She has also held many short-term and visiting positions, including the University of California-Berkeley; Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey; and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.
In her doctoral thesis, Chang worked on problems in classical analysis, in particular the study of boundary behavior of bounded analytic functions on the unit disc. Since then, her research interest has gradually shifted to problems in real harmonic analysis, then to spectral theory of the Laplacian, and further to problems in geometric analysis, using partial differential equation (PDE) methods to study problems in differential geometry.
Chang is currently interested in a branch of mathematics in geometric partial differential equations called "conformal geometry." She is developing new techniques involving higher-order conformal invariants to understand the conformal structure of manifolds.
Chang’s work has been lauded throughout her distinguished career. She was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1979 and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1999. She served as vice president of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) from 1989 to 1991 and was awarded the AMS Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize for outstanding contributions to mathematics research by a woman in 1995. She was also invited as a plenary speaker at the International Congress of Mathematics in 2002.
At Princeton, Chang served as director of graduate study in the Department of Mathematics from 2002 to 2004. She also participates in the Noetherian Ring, an organization of mathematics students, postdoctorates and professors that provides support and encouragement to women in the field.
“I’m a firm believer that, given a suitable environment in which to develop, women and men are equally talented in mathematics,” Chang says. Partially due to the enriching interaction among the classmates at National Taiwan University, several of the 12 women in her own undergraduate class went on to become successful mathematicians.
Chang has one daughter and one son. Paul Yang, also a professor of mathematics at Princeton, is her husband and long-time scientific collaborator. In her spare time, Chang enjoys reading novels, taking walks and listening to music.