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Maryam Mirzakhani Wins Fields Medal, the Nobel of Math

Image: Maryam Mirzakhani Wins Fields Medal, the Nobel of Math
Iranian mathematician Prof Maryam Mirzakhani. (Yonhap/EPA/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 12:00 PM

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University mathematics professor, has become the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, regarded as the "Nobel Prize of mathematics," according to the university.

The award, established in 1936, was presented by the International Mathematical Union on Wednesday at the International Congress of Mathematicians, in Seoul, South Korea, said Stanford in a statement.

A native of Tehran, Iran, Mirzakhani received the award for her "sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces, such as spheres, the surfaces of doughnuts and of hyperbolic objects," the university stated.

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"This is a great honor," Mirzakhani said in the Stanford statement. "I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years."

Frances Kirwan, a member of the medal selection committee from the University of Oxford, told the BBC News that despite the fact that 40 percent of current math undergraduates in Great Britain are women, the field is still male dominated.

"I hope that this award will inspire lots more girls and young women, in this country and around the world, to believe in their own abilities and aim to be the Fields medalists of the future," said Kirwan.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mirzakhani, 37, who earned her doctorate at Harvard University, said she still gets a thrill about uncovering something new and working with professors from different walks of life.

"Of course, the most rewarding part (of my work) is the 'Aha' moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view," Mirzakhani said in The Guardian interview. "But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight.

"I find discussing mathematics with colleagues of different backgrounds one of the most productive ways of making progress," she said.

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Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University mathematics professor, has become the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, regarded as the "Nobel Prize of mathematics," according to the university.
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Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 12:00 PM
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