Figalli celebrated the honour with co-winners Caucher Birkar, Peter Scholze and Indian-Australian Akshay Venkatesh in the Rio de Janeiro ceremony of the prize, which is awarded every four years. 

“This prize gives me so much joy,” Figalli told ANSA after the announcement at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM).

“It is such a big thing that I'm struggling to believe that I have received it.”

Figalli’s passion for maths was sparked in high school when entered the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Since then, he has gone on to become a leader in calculating variations and partial differential equations.

Figalli, now 34 and a professor at ETH Zurich, said the prize “gives automatic visibility and opens up doors to us”.

In addition to pursuing his own high-level research, he said encouraging young mathematicians “is something of a duty”.

Figalli is the second Italian to win the prize and the first in 44 years.