The Francqui Prize is a prestigious Belgian scholarly and scientific prize, awarded each year (except between 1941 and 1945) since 1932 by the Francqui Foundation in recognition of the achievements of a young (under 50) Belgian scholar or scientist.
The prize is named after Émile Francqui. It represents a sum of 250,000 €, and is awarded in the following three-year rotation of subjects: exact sciences, social sciences, and biological or medical sciences.
This year it was the turn of an exact scientist and it was 39-year-old mathematics professor that won the quarter of a million euro prize.
Professor Vaes researches von Neumann algebra, mathematical structures that occur within quantum mechanics.
Von Neumann algebras are also used in knot theory to show that some knots can nether be untied. His research has produced some ground-breaking results in the field of the structure of operator algebras that have an impact on the fundaments of mathematics.
Speaking after having been awarded his prize, Stefaan Vaes told journalists that he was both surprised and honoured.