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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)
  • 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)

Next Story

Chinese Researchers Reveal Mechanism of Chronic Stress Promoting Breast Cancer Development

Qiang noted that patients with breast cancer, ovarian cancer and stomach cancer often have negative emotions, which in turn accelerates the development of their own tumours

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Breast Cancer
Nano technology offers hope for better cancer testing. Pixabay

Chinese researchers have revealed the mechanism of how chronic stress promotes breast cancer development, shedding light on future clinical treatment for cancer.

Cancer patients often suffer negative emotions such as anxiety, despair and fear, which are risk factors facilitating tumour growth as well as promoting cancer progression. However, the specific mechanisms of how chronic stress affects cancer development remains unknown yet.

Researchers from the Dalian Medical University in China found that chronic stress might increase epinephrine levels, which enhances lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) and promotes breast cancer stem-like cells, Xinhua reported.

Using a drug screen that targeted LDHA, they found that Vitamin C reversed the chronic stress-induced cancer stem-like phenotype.

The study demonstrates the critical importance of psychological factors in promoting stem-like properties in breast cancer cells and provides a promising therapeutic approach for breast cancer, according to Liu Qiang, lead researcher at the varsity.

Representational image.

“The LDHA-lowering agent Vitamin C can be a potential approach for combating stress-associated breast cancer,” Qiang said, in the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

His team has been engaged in the dynamic regulation of cancer stem cells research as well as the mechanism of psychosocial behaviour affecting tumour development.

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Qiang noted that patients with breast cancer, ovarian cancer and stomach cancer often have negative emotions, which in turn accelerates the development of their own tumours.

“It is necessary to monitor their chronic stress comprehensively by taking psychological assessments as well as conducting blood tests which include epinephrine levels,” Qiang said. (IANS)