Monday, July 17, 2017

A00096 - Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win the Fields Medal

Mirzakhani, Maryam
Maryam Mirzakhani (Persian: مریم میرزاخانی‎; b. May 3, 1977, Tehran, Iran - d. July 14, 2017, Palo Alto, California) was an Iranian mathematician, and a full professor of mathematics (beginning on September 1, 2008) at Stanford University. 
Her research interests included Teichmuller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry.   In 2014, Mirzakhani became the first woman, as well as the first Iranian and the second person from the Middle East (after Elon Lindenstrauss), to be awarded the Fields Medal. 

Maryam Mirzakhani was born in 1977 in Tehran, Iran. She went to high school in the city at the Farzanegan School, a school for gifted girls that is administered by the National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET). Mirzakhani competed and was recognized internationally for her math skills, receiving gold medals at both the 1994 International Mathematical Olympiad (Hong Kong) and the 1995 International Mathematical Olympiad (Toronto), where she was the first Iranian student to finish with a perfect score.

Mirzakhani obtained her BSc in mathematics (1999) from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. She went to the United States for graduate work, earning a PhD from Harvard University (2004), where she worked under the supervision of the Fields Medalist Curtis McMullen. She was also a 2004 research fellow of the Clay Mathematics Institute and a professor at Princeton University. 

Mirzakhani made several contributions to the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces.  In her early work, Maryam Mirzakhani discovered a formula expressing the volume of a moduli space with a given genus as a polynomial in the number of boundary components. This led her to obtain a new proof for the formula discovered by Edward Witten and Maxim Kontsevich on the intersection numbers of tautology classes on moduli space, as well as an asymptotic formula for the growth of the number of simple closed geodesics on a compact hyperbolic surface. Her subsequent work has focused on Teichmüller dynamics of moduli space. In particular, she was able to prove the long-standing conjecture that William Thurston's earthquake flow onTeichmuller space is ergodic.

Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal in 2014 for "her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces". She was congratulated for her win by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

She married Jan Vondrak, a theoretical computer scientist.  They had a daughter named Anahita.

Mirzakhani was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. After four years, it spread to her bone marrow. Mirzakhani died from breast cancer on July 14, 2017 at the age of 40.

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