The passing of brilliant mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani from breast cancer earlier this year has done little to diminish her distinguished accomplishments, with continued commemorations emerging around the world. The first woman, and first Iranian, to win the Field’s Medal—an award in mathematics that is without equal—Mirzakhani was a professor at Stanford University in California at the time of her death, where she garnered numerous honors during her tenure.
Now, the late mathematician is to be honored at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, her old Alma mater where she would obtain her Bachelor’s in Mathematics in 1999; this scroll would represent the humble beginnings of her numerous collegiate accomplishments. Prior to her time at universities, she was a young math Olympian who would secure inaugural gold medals at events in Hong Kong and Toronto, blazing a trail for other Iranian women in this field like Sara Zahedi, the only female to win the European Mathematical Society Prize in 2016; only nine women have ever won this award in 20 years.
Later stages of her education saw immigrate to the US and attend Harvard University, where Mirzakhani would obtain her PhD. Her doctoral adviser was none other than Curtis T. McMullen, himself a 1998 Fields Medalist. McMullen would praise her at the awards ceremony:
“Some scientists and mathematicians engage in a problem to go beyond what other people have done; they measure themselves against others…Maryam was not like that. She would engage directly with the scientific challenge, with the mathematics, no matter how hard it was, and really go deep into the heart of the matter.”
It’s an inspiring and unparalleled narrative that only accumulates attention and prominence as the months pass. In October, Stanford hosted a memorial ceremony at the Department of Mathematics Research Center, where family, friends, and colleagues shared memories of Mirzakhani. Contributions to a graduate fellowship created in her honor were collected by the department, asserting that her legacy will live on as new scholars in the field follow in her footsteps.
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