Jaime San Martín, 2023 National Prize for Exact Sciences: “It is a recognition of teamwork”

Jaime San Martín, 2023 National Prize for Exact Sciences: “It is a recognition of teamwork”

The Minister of Education, Nicolás Cataldo, pointed out that the award was “considering his excellence”.

The Chilean mathematician and doctor in statistics Jaime San Martín Aristegui, 63 years old, was awarded, this Thursday, August 24, with the 2023 National Prize for Exact Sciences, which is granted every year by the Ministry of Education, after unanimously deciding in a jury formed by the Minister Nicolás Cataldo himself; the rector of the Universidad de Chile, Rosa Devés; the representative of the Council of Rectors and rector of the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Juan Yuz; the president of the Chilean Academy of Sciences, María Cecilia Hidalgo; and the 2021 National Exact Sciences Prize, Mónica Rubio.

“I was in the office chatting with a couple of former classmates from the U, suddenly a strange phone calls and I don’t answer it. Ten minutes later they call again. The secretary calls me and says ‘listen, the minister is trying to reach you’. And that’s when I turned pale and I had an intuition. I said, wow, it seems I got the award, but in those seconds I still could not assimilate it, so it was a nice feeling. I talked to the Minister (of Education, Nicolás Cataldo), he congratulated me and from there the madness started. I couldn’t understand it”, explained San Martín, associate researcher at the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM), full professor at the Department of Mathematical Engineering of the University of Chile and scientific director of the National Laboratory for High Performance Computing (NLHPC).

During the announcement, the head of the Mineduc explained that they reviewed 10 nominations, and that “once the background was analyzed in depth, it was decided to award the prize to Jaime San Martín Aristegui, considering his excellence, international recognition in the area of probabilities, and his mathematical results that have provided a new theoretical framework for a number of other scientific disciplines. Likewise, his outstanding capacity to train mathematicians and his leadership in the creation of infrastructure at the national level were also evaluated”.

Jaime San Martín with the Ministers of Education, Nicolás Cataldo and Science, Aisén Etcheverry.

For San Martín, with more than 40 years of experience, “the award also emphasizes more than just doing science. In recent years I have dedicated a lot, with a very good group of colleagues and professionals of the CMM, to go throughout the country to raise this idea that Chile has the supercomputer it deserves. I feel that this is an award not only to me, but to a team, to a team. It is something very special of the CMM, that the science we do and the actions we do far beyond science, is reflected in the welfare of Chileans, that is the objective of the CMM and I fit perfectly, it interprets me infinitely”.

“It is not a personal benefit, it has to be used for the benefit of the community and the national scientific community, in particular Chilean mathematics. Use this to make the University of Chile and the CMM better and bigger. It is a moment to be thankful, more than to use the prize. I am happy and I am looking forward to being with my family soon. The first person I called was my wife. I am going to celebrate with my children at home”, added the professor as he returned to the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences after attending the ceremony at the Mineduc, in downtown Santiago.

Jaime San Martín, 2023 National Prize for Exact Sciences.

Before fulfilling this family wish, the new winner of the 2023 National Prize for Exact Sciences took advantage of the occasion to reflect on the reality of mathematics in the country. “It is more or less historical that Chile does not perform very well in mathematics. There is a huge inequality in our training, in our education. Perhaps it has worsened in recent years with boys and girls who have almost no chance of learning, in very complicated conditions. The only way for Chile to really get closer to development is for the children of this land to have the same or very close to the same possibilities. We are wasting talent in an incredible way, we are wasting talent”, he said.

“A source of enlightenment”

After the deliberation, the Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, Aisén Etcheverry, arrived at the Ministry of Education to accompany and greet the award winner. “The quality of our science advances and I value the opportunity that this award can give visibility to those advances, through people like Professor San Martín. It is impossible not to recognize his work. But also his contributions in forming schools, which is something valuable, because we are building the country from groups that talk, that advance in the challenges we face and, from science, try to find solutions that benefit us all,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile, many colleagues and friends were waiting for Jaime San Martín to congratulate him. “A National Prize for the faculty is always a reason for enormous pride. It gives the feeling that things are being done well, that the work that many academics do has impactful fruits for society, so much so that it is available to recognize it. And in particular, in the case of Jaime, it is an enormous happiness in personal terms and for being a great friend, a person very committed to the faculty and very loved by his students. He is very creative, ingenious, autonomous in his thinking and has always been a source of enlightenment,” said Dean Francisco Martinez.

The professor also recalled with nostalgia when they both entered the university. “It was back to democracy and, therefore, there were many issues that were opening in a university affected, diminished, questioned internally, externally and therefore there was much to think about how to lead a university. We came back at the same time, from there this friendship arose and there we entered into a process of discussion about the university, about the faculty, about what were the challenges in the way of understanding the university”.

Servet Martínez, Jaime San Martín, Francisco Martínez (Dean of the FCFM of the U. of Chile) and Eduardo Vera. Photo: Alonso Farías.

Servet Martínez, winner of the 1993 National Prize for Exact Sciences and associate researcher at CMM, recalled that “he was one of my first students, but that is an anecdote for what his prize is, because his prize is for all his work, the work of his entire life, which includes fundamental work in probability theory and also includes launching initiatives of national importance, such as the High Performance Computing Laboratory and all his interdisciplinary work that he has developed. So it is really well deserved for all Jaime’s work and we at the MWC are also very happy”.

For the Vice-Dean of the FCFM of the U. de Chile, Marcela Munizaga, “it is a great joy to give this recognition to Jaime who has been making significant contributions to science for many years. It is a privilege to have training with professors who are recognized as national prizewinners. I believe that the first National Prize (of the faculty) was Igor Saavedra, our physics professor in this case, and we clearly have several national awards that are training our students. This is the best training that one can receive by being trained by professors with this level of recognition and trajectory”.

From Japan, the director of the CMM, Héctor Ramírez, also celebrated the award. “We are very happy for this recognition to our colleague Jaime San Martín, it does justice not only for his contribution to mathematics, particularly in the area of probabilities, but also for everything he has created during his career, highlighting the creation of the Astroinformatics Laboratory and the National Laboratory of High Performance Computing,” he said.


Jaime Ricardo San Martín Aristegui holds a PhD in Statistics from Purdue University, USA (1990) and a degree in Mathematical Civil Engineering from the University of Chile (1985), where he is currently a full professor in the Department of Mathematical Engineering. He is also a research associate at the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) and scientific director of the National Laboratory for High Performance Computing (NLHPC).

His main area of research is in probability theory. More specifically, in stochastic calculus, Brownian motion, potential theory and quasi-stationary distributions. He also works on matrix analysis and its connections with probability. In terms of applications, his interests are mainly focused on mathematical models in astronomy.

Author of the book “Teoría de la medida” (Editorial Universitaria, 2018).

Awards and recognitions:
– National Prize for Exact Sciences, 2023.
– I.W. Burr Award, Department of Statistics, Purdue University, 1990.

By Alonso Farías Ponce, CMM journalist.

Posted on Aug 28, 2023 in News