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Iranian professor is first woman to win “Nobel Prize of maths”

An Iranian-born mathematician has become the first woman to win a prestigious Fields Medal, widely viewed as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Harvard-educated mathematician and professor at Stanford University in California, was one of four winners announced by the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) at its conference in Seoul on Wednesday.

“This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani said in a press release from Stanford University where she is a professor.

At the time of the award, Wisconsin professor Jordan Ellenberg explained her research to a popular audience:

    … [Her] work expertly blends dynamics with geometry. Among other things, she studies billiards. But now, in a move very characteristic of modern mathematics, it gets kind of meta: She considers not just one billiard table, but the universe of all possible billiard tables. And the kind of dynamics she studies doesn’t directly concern the motion of the billiards on the table, but instead a transformation of the billiard table itself, which is changing its shape in a rule-governed way; if you like, the table itself moves like a strange planet around the universe of all possible tables … This isn’t the kind of thing you do to win at pool, but it’s the kind of thing you do to win a Fields Medal. And it’s what you need to do in order to expose the dynamics at the heart of geometry; for there’s no question that they’re there.   (wikipedia)

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