Eugenia Cheng

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Eugenia Cheng
EugeniaCheng PhiBetaKappa EnLightningTalksChicago2016 (cropped).jpg
Eugenia Cheng at the Phi Beta Kappa Society (En)Lightning Talks Chicago in 2016
Born Eugenia Loh-Gene Cheng
Education Roedean School
Alma mater University of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known for How to Bake Pi[1]
Scientific career
Fields Category theory
Popular mathematics
Thesis Higher-dimensional category theory : opetopic foundations (2002)
Doctoral advisor Martin Hyland[2]

Eugenia Loh-Gene Cheng is an English mathematician, pianist, Scientist-in-Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an honorary fellow[3] of pure mathematics at the University of Sheffield.[4][5] Her mathematical interests include higher-dimensional category theory, and as a pianist she specialises in lieder and art song.[6] She is also passionate about explaining mathematics to non-mathematicians to rid the world of math phobia, often using entertaining analogies with food and baking.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Cheng was born in Hampshire, England but moved to Sussex when she was one, and spent the rest of her childhood there.[8] Her interest in mathematics stemmed from a young age thanks largely to her mother who made mathematics a part of life.[9] Her father was also supportive, encouraging her to be imaginative;[8] but Cheng's biggest influence was her mother, who introduced stimulating mathematical ideas and used the language of logic naturally.[10]

Cheng attended Roedean School.[11] She was bored by school when she was young,[citation needed] but practised the piano every day and was an avid reader.[12] She was also “very serious about eating”.[8] She studied the Mathematical Tripos at the University of Cambridge where she was a student of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Her postgraduate research was supervised by Martin Hyland.[2][13][8][14]

Career and research[edit]

Before working at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cheng has held academic appointments at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, the University of Sheffield and the University of Chicago.[9] Cheng is still affiliated to the University of Sheffield as a senior lecturer of pure mathematics, but is now based at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she teaches mathematics to arts students.[9] She has published over a dozen research papers across several journals within her area of category theory.[15] Former doctoral students include Nick Gurski[2] and Thomas Cottrell.[16]

Mathematics and baking[edit]

Cheng's research interests are in category theory, which she has written about for a general audience by using analogies from baking. Her vision is to rid the world of mathematics phobia. In How to Bake Pi,[1] each chapter begins with a recipe for a dessert, to illustrate the commonalities in the methods and principles of mathematics and cooking. The book was well received[8][17][18] and has since been translated into French.[19]

Cheng has also written a number of papers with similar themes, such as On the perfect quantity of cream for a scone[20] and On the perfect size for a pizza.[21] Cheng has presented similar topics through YouTube in a light-hearted manner, and has explored mathematics in other entertaining ways such as in her speech Mathematics and Lego: the untold story.[22]


Cheng is a pianist who specializes in lieder and art song. She was awarded the Sheila Mossman Memorial Award from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and was the first recipient of the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Award for the Musician of the Year. In Chicago, she gave a recital in the Pianoforte Chicago recital series; she performed Schwanengesang and Winterreise with Paul Geiger at Schubertiade Chicago in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and Die Schöne Müllerin with Ryan de Ryan at Schubertiade Chicago 2007. She performed lieder with tenor Nicholas Harkness in the Noontime Recital Series at the University of Chicago, the Salon Series at the Tower Club, and the Maxwell Recital Series, and she gave recitals for the Auxiliary Board Chapter of the Lyric Opera; she also performed La Traviata at the Oak Park Village Players.[23]

In 2013, Cheng founded Liederstube as an oasis for art song in the Fine Arts Building, in downtown Chicago. The mission of Liederstube is to present and enjoy classical music in an intimate and informal setting. The Liederstube is a Not For Profit 501(c)(3) organization.[24]

Media appearances[edit]

Cheng has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert making Mille-feuille with Stephen Colbert in 2015 to demonstrate exponentials.[25] She was interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili for The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4, first broadcast in January 2018.[12]


  1. ^ a b Eugenia,, Cheng, How to bake pi : an edible exploration of the mathematics of mathematics, Gilbert, Tavia, ISBN 9781622316687, OCLC 898167298  (also known as Cakes, Custard and Category Theory)
  2. ^ a b c Eugenia Cheng at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ "Eugenia Cheng homepage". Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  4. ^ University of Sheffield. "Dr Eugenia Cheng". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  5. ^ "SAIC - Eugenia Cheng - School of the Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  6. ^ "Eugenia Cheng, piano". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  7. ^ Angier, Natalie (2010-05-02). "Eugenia Cheng Makes Math a Piece of Cake". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-26. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy Recipes for Understanding Complex Maths, by Eugenia Cheng | Times Higher Education". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  9. ^ a b c "If you can follow a simple cake recipe...then you can do applied mathematics". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  10. ^ Dr Eugenia Cheng. "Why I Don't Like Being a "Female Role Model" — Bright — Medium". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  11. ^ Faberij de Jonge, Jane (2013). "Profile: Dr Eugenia Cheng". Roedean Magazine: 36–37. 
  12. ^ a b Al-Khalili, Jim (2018). "Eugenia Cheng on the mathematics of mathematics". London: BBC. 
  13. ^ Cheng, Eugenia Loh-Gene (2002). Higher-dimensional category theory : opetopic foundations (PDF). (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 879393286. EThOS Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-31.  templatestyles stripmarker in |id= at position 1 (help)
  14. ^ Cheng, Eugenia; Hyland, Martin; Power, John (2003). "Pseudo-distributive Laws". Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science. 83: 227–245. doi:10.1016/S1571-0661(03)50012-3. ISSN 1571-0661. 
  15. ^ "Research papers". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  16. ^ Cottrell, Thomas (2014). Comparing algebraic and non-algebraic foundations of n-category theory. (PhD thesis). University of Sheffield. OCLC 879388784. EThOS  templatestyles stripmarker in |id= at position 1 (help) Free to read
  17. ^ "'How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics' by Eugenia Cheng". Kirkus Reviews. March 15, 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  18. ^ Bellos, Alex (June 12, 2015). "'How to Bake Pi,' by Eugenia Cheng". New York Times. New York City. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ Cheng, Eugenia (2016). Comment cuire un 9. Translated by Courcelle, Olivier. Flammarion. ISBN 978-2-08-138213-8. 
  20. ^ Eugenia Cheng. "On the perfect quantity of cream for a scone" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  21. ^ Eugenia Cheng. "On the perfect size for a pizza" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  22. ^ Eugenia Cheng. "Mathematics and Lego : the untold story" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  23. ^ "Eugenia Cheng, piano". Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  24. ^ "home". Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  25. ^ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2015-11-05), Dr. Eugenia Cheng Gives Paula Deen A Run For Her Butter, retrieved 2017-03-02 

External links[edit]