Eric Vigoda won the 2006 Delbert Ray Fulkerson Prize for his paper titled "A polynomial-time approximation algorithm for the permanent of a matrix with nonnegative entries", co-authored with Mark Jerrum at the University of Edinburgh and Alistair Sinclair at UC Berkeley. The Fulkerson Prize is, along with the Polya prize, one of two most prestigious awards given in the area of Discrete Mathematics. The Fulkerson prize is sponsored jointly by the Mathematical Programming Society and the American Mathematical Society, and is awarded every three years at the International Symposium on Mathematical Programming

The permanent of a matrix is currently a well-studied combinatorial problem with applications in many fields, as it corresponds to the number of perfect matchings of a bipartite graph. For example in physics, computing the permanent is central to the study of the Dimer and Ising Models, although the exact computation of the permanent is intractable. Mathematicians began studying the permanent about two centuries ago, partly because of its superficial similarity to the determinant, which is a much easier problem.