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Congratulations to Professor Maryam Mirzakhani—The First Woman to Win the Fields Math Medal!

MaryamMirzakhaniThe Fields Medal is regarded as something akin to a Nobel Prize for mathematics. Established by Canadian mathematician John Fields, it is awarded every four years and comes with a sizable cash prize so the recipient can continue their research. Between two and four researchers receive the award, and they must be no older than 40—as well as recognizing success, Fields wanted to encourage the winners to strive for “further achievement.”

This past week, BBC News reports that a “long overdue” landmark decision was made: Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician working in the United States, has become the first ever female recipient of the Fields Medal for her work in complex geometry. She, along with three other recipients, were awarded their medals in Seoul at the International Congress of Mathematicians.

Professor Mirzakhani’s research concerns shapes called Riemann surfaces. These are twisting, convoluted mathematical objects and surfaces that can be analyzed using complex numbers – i.e. numbers with real and imaginary parts. In particular, she has studied the “moduli spaces” of these shapes, which map all of the possible geometries of a Riemann surface into their own, new space.

In becoming the very first female medalist, Prof Mirzakhani – who teaches at Stanford University in California – ends what has been a long wait for the mathematics community. Prof Sir John Ball, a British mathematician and a former president of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), also agrees that Prof Mirzakhani’s win was “fantastically important.” He notes that a female winner was overdue and that Prof Mirzakhani is one of many brilliant women mathematicians.

Prof Dame Frances Kirwan, a member of the medal selection committee from the University of Oxford, points out that despite the mathematics field being dominated by men, women have contributed to mathematics for centuries. Prof Kirwan states,

 “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.”

This is exciting news for young women who are interested in pursuing degrees in math and science. The Dream It Do It blog has been making the case for more girls in STEM education for some time now and we hope this achievement will inspire young women around the world to keep pursuing their dreams, no matter what.

We hope that the next great mathematician to receive this medal will be you. And once again, congratulations to Professor Mirzakhani and the other recipients on their crowning achievements!

Photo credit: Reuters via BBC

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