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Maryam Mirzakhani, First Iranian Woman to be Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Source: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. One of the highest honors for scientists in the United States, new members are elected by current members based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. These members serve as “advisors to the nation” on science, engineering, and medicine. Past honorees include renowned scientists Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell. Mirzakhani was one of the 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected into the nonprofit organization this year. She will be formally inducted next April in Washington D.C.

Dr. Mirzakhani was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. As a teenager in 1994, she won a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad, becoming the first female Iranian student to do so. The following year, she was the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score at the Olympiad and win two gold medals. After high school, she attended Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and later earned her PhD from Harvard University.

Dr. Mirzakhani’s research focuses on hyperbolic geometry, although she has expertise in abroad array of mathematical fields. Her ability to borrow techniques from different fields is part of what makes her research so brilliant and innovative.

Of her mathematic approach to developing new proofs, she says: “It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.”

Dr. Mirzakhani was a 2004 research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute and previously worked as a professor at Princeton University. In 2014, she won the Fields Medal which is considered one of the most prestigious awards offered to mathematicians. She became the first woman and the first Iranian to win this award. Iranian President Rouhani congratulated Mirzakhani, making the statement: “I congratulate you for winning the topmost world prize in mathematics. Today the Iranians can feel proud that the first woman who has ever won the Fields Medal is their fellow citizen. Yes! The most competent must sit at the highest position and must be the most respected.”

Dr. Mirzakhani has also been awarded the Clay Research Award as well as the Blumenthal Award for Mathematics. She is married to theoretical computer scientist, Jan Vondrak, and they have one daughter.

PAAIA congratulates Maryam Mirzakhani on this and her many other tremendous achievements.

Maryam Mirzakhani profile by WIRED Science


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