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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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“DNA Barcode” To Deliver Personalised Care For Breast Cancer Patients

Launched in 2016, the varsity's Personalised Breast Cancer Programme has mapped the entire genetic code of nearly 300 women diagnosed with breast cancer, the report said

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Formalin, a cancer-inducing chemical, is used to keep dead fish fresh and enhance their storage life.
Formalin, a cancer-inducing chemical, is used to keep dead fish fresh and enhance their storage life. Pixabay

Undergoing genetic testing for breast cancer creates a “DNA barcode” which can help transform treatment for the deadly cancer and make it more personalised to each patient, scientists say.

According to doctors at the Britain’s Cambridge University, mapping the genetic code could help them choose the right treatment as well as predict whether patients are likely to experience side effects, the BBC reported.

It can also reveal whether their cancer, the second most common cancer in women, is becoming resistant to treatment.

“Breast cancer is not one but 10 or 11 diseases that are distinct molecular entities… By sequencing the tumour we have something like a barcode which gives us the pattern of mutations in that cancer,” Carlos Caldas, Professor at the varsity, was quoted as saying.

The genome sequencing can detect whether patients have inherited mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2 genes which increases their risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. The findings can also have implications for their family.

Cancer
Representational image. Pixabay

“We can understand how the body and in particular the immune cells are responding and this enables us to deliver more precision in the medicine,” Caldas said.

“This barcode also enables us to do surveillance and identify early whether a tumour is coming back because of developing resistance to treatment. When those cells start releasing their DNA we can detect them in a blood test known as a liquid biopsy,” he noted.

Also Read: To Treat Brain Cancer Scientists Taking Polio’s Help

Launched in 2016, the varsity’s Personalised Breast Cancer Programme has mapped the entire genetic code of nearly 300 women diagnosed with breast cancer, the report said.

These women have a sample of their tumour and of their blood sent for sequencing, with the full results coming back within 12 weeks.

“We want to reduce the number of toxic drugs that we give to patients, and where possible treat them with targeted therapies with fewer side effects,” Alejandra Bruna, molecular biologist at the varsity, was quoted as saying. (IANS)