Quick hit: Maryam Mirzakhani wins the Fields Medal

Image of Maryam Mirzakhani

CC-BY-SA 3.0 image by Ehsan Tabari

The Fields Medal is the highest award in the field of mathematics. Some people have called it the math equivalent of the Nobel Prize, though it’s not a perfect analogy since Fields medalists must be younger than 40 years old. Fifty people received the Fields Medal between 1936 and 2010 (the award is given every four years to between two and four mathematicians). All of them were men.

Today, Stanford math professor Maryam Mirzakhani (born in 1977) became the first woman, and the first person of Iranian descent, to win the Fields Medal. (It was also awarded to Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, and Martin Hairer.) Her work lies in the intersection of geometry, topology, and dynamical systems.

You can read more about Dr. Mirzakhani in a profile of her by Erica Klarreich:

Mirzakhani likes to describe herself as slow. Unlike some mathematicians who solve problems with quicksilver brilliance, she gravitates toward deep problems that she can chew on for years. “Months or years later, you see very different aspects” of a problem, she said. There are problems she has been thinking about for more than a decade. “And still there’s not much I can do about them,” she said.

Mirzakhani doesn’t feel intimidated by mathematicians who knock down one problem after another. “I don’t get easily disappointed,” she said. “I’m quite confident, in some sense.”

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