PERTH-raised mathematician Akshay Venkatesh has become the second Australian to win a Fields Medal — described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

A child prodigy who attended Scotch College, Professor Venkatesh, 36, sat his university entry exams at the age of 12 and was the youngest student to study at the University of WA.

After graduating from UWA in 1997 with a science degree with first-class honours, aged just 16, he went on to complete his PhD at Princeton University in the US when he was 20. He is now a professor of mathematics at Stanford University.

Professor Venkatesh, who has been recognised for his work with analytic number theory, homogenous dynamics, topology and representation theory, said manipulating numbers made him feel happy. “A lot of the time when you do math, you’re stuck, but at the same time there are all these moments where you feel privileged that you get to work with it,” he said.

“And you have got this sensation of transcendence, you feel like you’ve been part of something really meaningful.”

UWA mathematics professor and Australian Academy of Science fellow, Cheryl Praeger, who first met Professor Venkatesh when he was 12, said he was extraordinary.

“At our first meeting I was speaking with Akshay’s mother, Svetha, while Akshay was sitting at a table in my office reading my blackboard which contained fragments from a supervision of one of my PhD students,” she said. “At Akshay’s request, I explained what the problem was. He coped with quite a lot of detail and I found that he could quite easily grasp the essence of the research.”

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to between two and four researchers under 40, in recognition of outstanding mathematical achievement.

Terence Tao was the first Australian mathematician to win the medal in 2006.

Other winners of the 2018 Fields Medal, announced at the International Congress of Mathematics in Brazil, were Alessio Figalli from Switzerland, Caucher Birkar from Britain and Germany’s Peter Scholze.