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Maryam Mirzakhani : The First Woman to Win Fields Medal in Mathematics Equivalent of Nobel Prize Dies

Maryam Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40

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Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, in 2014. Source: (VOA)
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  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the only woman to win mathematics equivalent of Nobel Prize
  • She died on Saturday as she was battling breast cancer
  • She was born in Iran and joined Stanford University in 2008 as a mathematics professor

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died Saturday, the university announced. It did not indicate where she died.

In 2014, Mirzakhani was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, which is presented every four years and is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was named for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

Also read: A Look Back In History: Contribution of Indian Mathematicians in the field of Mathematics

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford press announcement. “Mastering these approaches allowed Mirzakhani to pursue her fascination for describing the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces — spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas — in as great detail as possible.”

The work had implications in fields ranging from cryptography to “the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” the university said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied there and at Harvard University. She joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

‘Heart-rending’ loss

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement Saturday praising Mirzakhani. “The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heart-rending,” Rouhani said in a message that was reported by the Tehran Times.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Iranians, the Tehran Times reported.

“The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani’s passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists,” Zarif posted in Farsi on his Instagram account. “I do offer my heartfelt condolences upon the passing of this lady scientist to all Iranians worldwide, her grieving family and the scientific community.”

Mirzakhani originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to mathematics.

When she was working, Mirzakhani would doodle on sheets of paper and scribble formulas on the edges of her drawings, leading her daughter to describe the work as painting, according to the Stanford statement.

Mirzakhani once described her work as “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.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and daughter, Anahita. (VOA)

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Night shifts may increase cancer risk

A positive association between night shifts and risk of cancer

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Night shifts increase cancer risk. Pexels
Night shifts increase cancer risk. Pexels
  • Long-term night shift work among women increased the risk of cancer by 19%.
  • A meta-analysis using using international data from 61 articles comprising 114,628 cancer cases and 3,909,152 participants.
  • These studies found an association between long-term night shift work and risk of 11 types of cancer.

Women who work overnight have a comparatively high risk of developing cancer than women who do not, say researchers. An analysis of international data has confirmed an association between night-shifts and cancer.

“Our study indicates that night shift work serves as a risk factor for common cancers in women,” said Xuelei Ma, co-author of the study from West China Medical Center of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

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Findings

These studies found an association between long-term night shift work and risk of 11 types of cancer. Wikimedia commons
These studies found an association between long-term night shift work and risk of 11 types of cancer. Wikimedia commons
  • Long-term night shift work among women increased the risk of cancer by 19 percent.
  • Nurses (working in night shifts) had the highest risk of breast cancer, of all the occupations analysed.
  • The population of women working on night shifts have an increase risk of skin (41%), breast (32%) and gastrointestinal cancer (18%).
  • Among female nurses alone, those who worked the night shift had an increased risk of breast (58%), gastrointestinal (35%) and lung cancer (28%).

Methodology

  • A meta-analysis using data from 61 articles comprising 114,628 cancer cases and 3,909,152 participants from North Amercia, Europe, Australia and Asia.
  • The articles consisted of 26 cohort studies, 24 case-control studies and 11 nested case-control studies.
  • These studies found an association between long-term night shift work and risk of 11 types of cancer.

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“Nurses that worked the night shift were of a medical background and may have been more likely to undergo screening examinations,” the researcher suggested.

The results might help establish and implement effective measures to protect female night shifters. Pixabay
The results might help establish and implement effective measures to protect female night shifters. Pixabay

“Long-term night shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings,” Ma noted.

The study was published in journal Cancer Epidemiology. (IANS)