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Dr. Maryam Mizrakhani: A Great STEM Pioneer, Gone too soon

Maryam Mirzakhani: A Great Pioneer in STEM, Gone too soon

This is a reprinting of an email we sent to our subscribers in the lead-up to the April 2017 Math Awareness Month and to promote our #MathMania box. We mourn the recent passing of the great Stanford University mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. She was the embodiment of what we hope all STEM Readers will become. And we can all learn something from her short but accomplished life.

Are great mathematicians born or made?

It’s hard to argue that some humans are born with the special gifts. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal (the namesake for the STEM Reads mascot, Pascal the Owl) was apparently proposing advanced math and physics theories at age nine.

However, many great mathematicians have also been made. For example, Stanford University math professor Maryam Mirzakhani did poorly in her math classes in middle school. “Her math teacher didn’t think she was particularly talented, which undermined her confidence.” (Quanta Magazine, 12 August 2014).

She regained her confidence quite nicely, thanks to a more encouraging teacher the following year. In fact, Dr. Mirzakhani would become the first woman ever to win the Fields Medal, the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics.

Here’s a three-minute clip of her story and her work:

Is your child is the next Pascal seeking to sharpen his fledgling math mind, or the next Mirzakhani looking for a little nudge down her path to greatness? Leave your comments/tributes/questions and share this article.