Fifth African-American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics

In one week, Baylor University will dedicate a new bust to commemorate Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes, their first African-American faculty member (hired in 1966) and the fifth African-American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics. The ceremony will be broadcast live on Baylor’s Facebook page on Tuesday, February 26th! #womeninmath#diversityinmath @bayloruniversity

Source: Facebook Page of Association for Women in Mathematics

Iranian student wins gold medal at world math contest


The 10th World Mathematics Invitational (WMI) took place at Yonsei University in Incheon, South Korea Zahra Zavieh, a student at Urmia University northwest Iran, the provincial capital of west Azerbaijan, won a gold medal for Iran, in a competition that brought together the world’s best math students. 

the tournament was held in South Korea at the end of July and 54 students took part, with Iran placing 2nd in the tournament with 5 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze medals, as well as 14 diplomas

Tributes paid to ‘shining light’ Maryam Mirzakhani


There is a classic geometric problem, put forward by Ernst Strauss in the 1950s, called the Illumination problem.  In it, he asked if a room with mirrored walls can always be illuminated by a single point light source, allowing for the repeated reflection of light off the mirrored walls.  Or in other words, can there be a room shape constructed which would leave any point in darkness?

Maryam Mirzakhani devoted her life to solving equations such us these and her brilliant and innovative work in abstract mathematics is being used to shed light on some long-standing physics problems to do with ricocheting and diffusion of light, billiards, wind and other entities.  Her findings are expected to have many uses in science, sports and other fields for years to come.

There was a quiet and orderly rush in the direction of the lecture hall on Tuesday morning as tributes were about to be paid to the first ever female winner of the Fields Medal (received at the ICM in Seoul in 2014), who passed away from cancer in July of 2017.  She left her husband Jan Vondrak, also a professor at Stanford, and young daughter Anahita.

The hall was lead in tribute and a minute’s silence, by Turkish mathematician Betul Tanbay, who recalled the illumination problem and compared her late colleague to the candle itself, lighting a path for others to follow.  “Maryam showed forever that excellence is not a matter of gender or geography,” she added, “Maths is a universal truth that is available to us all.”

Maryam was born in Tehran in 1977 and considered herself lucky to have finished junior school at the same time as the Iran/Iraq war ended.  Had it not, the world may have been forever deprived of her genius.

The moment she arrived at Sharif University as a young mathematics student, it was clear she was destined for greatness.  “I haven´t met anyone in Iran like Maryam,”  said Professor Saieed Akbari, who taught her a number of courses and tutored the Iranian Math Olympiad teams.  “She was unique, very brilliant.  When I taught her linear algebra, I gave her a problem which was very difficult to solve in 3 dimensions.  Within one week she came back to me with the solution in every dimension!  Another time I gave her an open problem with no solution and offered a ten dollar reward without telling the team that there was no solution. Three days later she came back with it solved!”  In both instances, the findings of this young math prodigy were published as papers.

As well as being precociously talented, Maryam was a humble individual, shunning the limelight and deflecting her success.  “She told me she had excellent parents, was lucky enough to go to a good school and have a group of brilliant friends. And all of these people helped her win the prize.”  Professor Akbari added.

Maryam later became a professor of mathematics at Stanford University where her research topics included Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory and symplectic geometry.  When she was awarded the Fields Medal, her work in “the dynamics and geometry of Reimann surfaces and their moduli spaces” was cited as being stand-out.

Doctor Ashraf Daneshkhah of the Women’s Committee at the Iranian Mathematical Society told me that Maryam has “inspired many women in Iran to go into mathematics.”  And her compatriot was a shining example, “very polite and quiet, always thinking rather than talking.”

Doctor Ashraf was here to present a proposal that Maryam’s birthday – May 12th – be recognized and supported by the World Meeting for Women in Mathematics as the Women in Mathematics Day. The date will be celebrated every year inside the mathematical community, encouraging females from all over the world to advance their achievements in the field.

Maria Droujkova: Beautiful Math is All About the People

I have chosen this article from AWM website. I hope you enjoy it. It is just a sample of biographies of women in mathematics. You can find many other articles by clicking on this link
2009 AWM Essay Contest: Grades 6 – 8 First Place

by Angela Pham

When we think of mathematics, we think of it as a solitary subject. We think of mathematicians being closed up in a small room working out complex problems. But for Maria Droujkova, working in math is almost the complete opposite.

“It’s all about people,” Maria Droujkova says. If you want to look into a career in mathematics, you should talk to math people, meet math people, go to math related events, and organize math clubs. First talk to people, then do the math. Math games, math projects, creative math, fun math, beautiful math.

Even in her young years, Maria’s mathematical education was rooted in personal relationships. Growing up in Ukraine, education was much different than in the US. At five she loved solving math problems with her mother. In early school, she found two other children who also loved math. With the help of an encouraging teacher, they found and solved math problems together. “The teacher gave us famous mathematicians’ nicknames – mine was Sonya Kovalevska.” In Maria’s adolescent years she turned toward physics, and when she was old enough for the math and science camps that her mother had her attend, she signed up for the physics division.

Maria Droujkova went to Moscow State University, a school respected throughout the Soviet Union, where she studied a branch of chaos theory. Her research led up to her thesis topic at the end of five years, which was “Bifurcations of Heart-Shaped Asymptote Polygons.” The chaos theory appealed to Maria because of the order that lay beneath complex and seemingly random events: even the smallest change can result in a whole new order. She was discovering beauty through her study of mathematics. After Maria graduated, she and her husband started looking for other countries to continue learning in. In the Soviet Union there were many restrictions on people’s activities, thoughts, and speech, even for children. As Maria began looking into math as a career, she saw that it would be too hard to accomplish where she lived. She wanted to research and discover, but Ukraine was closed to new ideas. The economy was so poor that it was almost impossible for mathematicians to work in math. “I saw a lot of my colleagues selling fruits on the streets or doing other random jobs to feed their families, and I’d rather do research.”

Because America was a good place for people who wanted to discover and the opportunities in math and science careers were wide open, Maria, 22, and her husband came to America in 1994 to enter Tulane University in New Orleans. At Tulane she got her MS degree in Applied Mathematics, which is using math in other fields. For example, math can be used to help figure out crimes, as is seen in the television show Numb3rs. Then Maria went to North Carolina State University and in 2004 got her PhD in Mathematics Education. Her dissertation topic was: “Roles of metaphor in the growth of mathematical understanding.” Metaphor in mathematical understanding is the explanation of a math principle by associating it with a familiar idea. This research must have later encouraged Maria to begin in her teaching of advanced math to young children.

What’s Maria’s favorite kind of math? Beautiful math. For example, beautiful math is in the patterns of geometric shapes. Maria uses these shapes, such as kirigami snowflakes, to teach things like multiplication. Maria’s main subject of teaching is multiplicative thinking, a central focus in her work. She strives to teach multiplication in a more creative way than just a multiplication table. She encourages students to find several different ways to learn multiplication principles rather than simply memorizing the facts.

Today, Maria works as a self-employed math education consultant near Raleigh, North Carolina. She speaks at conferences and works with other educators on math projects. Her company, Natural Math LLC, offers students fun activities, software, math clubs, and advice. Maria teaches kids and parents how to accept and love math by teaching them the beauty of it. She gives her classes different creative projects to learn complicated and advanced math that would normally be taught to older students. For example, she teaches three to six year olds about fractals. She also explores psychology and develops theories on how the human brain works when it encounters mathematical problems or patterns. Home-schooling gives her a full time job and a laboratory. “I am very happy to say that my ten year old daughter is growing up in the atmosphere where she can appreciate the beauty of mathematics. When she claps her hands excitedly upon seeing an especially elegant proof, or figuring out a tricky problem, or creating a handy representation, I can see we are doing something right.”


Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)


The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) is a non-profit organization founded in 1971.

The purpose of the Association for Women in Mathematics is to encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences.

AWM currently has more than 3000 members (women and men) representing a broad spectrum of the mathematical community — from the United States and around the world!

The Website of AWM: