Mathematics has been a field long dominated by male figures. For most of the 20th century, women were discouraged from math and science fields, as it was believed they did not have the same mental capacity as their male counterparts. Even today, these fields are largely dominated by men, with few women pursuing careers in math or science. That is why the news of a women receiving the Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics for the first time is an exciting achievement.

 

Maryam Mirzakhani was awarded what is math’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, on August 13. She was awarded the prize for her “sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces, such as spheres, the surfaces of doughnuts and of hyperbolic objects.” Most of us cannot even begin to understand the complexities of what Mirzakhani was working with, but it is important for us to understand the milestone for which she stands. Her achievement will hopefully encourage young girls to explore math and science, and for educators to foster that desire to explore.

 

Mirzakhani is an Iranian who found her love for math in an elite high school there. She graduated from Sharif University of Technology, and later attended Harvard University for her doctorate. She is now a professor at Stanford University, where she continues her studies and discoveries in mathematics.

 

It is shocking, however, that 2014 is the first time a women has been recognized for this achievement. Although much progress has been made to encourage young women to continue studies in math and science, it shows that we still have a long way to go before both women and men are respected equally in that field.

 

For now, we should celebrate this achievement for both men and women to be able to bring original contributions to a field that the average person could never imagine. Hopefully, Maryam Mirzakhani is the first of many women to be awarded an honor such as this in math and science.

 

What are your thoughts on Maryam Mirzakhani’s achievement? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter @whatsthesich