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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)

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Red Meat Consumption may Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen

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Red Meat, Breast Cancer, Risk
Researchers have found that red meat consumption may increase breast cancer risk while poultry consumption may prove to be protective against the disease. Pixabay

Red meat may be alluring to the taste buds but one cannot ignore the health risks associated with it. Researchers have found that red meat consumption may increase breast cancer risk while poultry consumption may prove to be protective against the disease.

“Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen. Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk,” said Dale P. Sandler from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US.

For the study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers analysed information on consumption of different types of meat and meat cooking practices of 42,012 women who were followed for an average of 7.6 years.

During follow-up, 1,536 invasive breast cancers were diagnosed. It was found that increasing consumption of red meat was associated with increased risk of invasive breast cancer – women who consumed the highest amount of red meat had a 23 per cent higher risk compared with women who consumed the lowest amount.

Red Meat, Breast Cancer, Risk
Red meat may be alluring to the taste buds but one cannot ignore the health risks associated with it. Pixabay

Conversely, increasing consumption of poultry was associated with decreased invasive breast cancer risk – women with the highest consumption had a 15 per cent lower risk than those with the lowest consumption.

Breast cancer was reduced even further for women who substituted poultry for meat.

“Processed meat is usually made up of red meat but it also contains nitrates and nitrites which further break down to form carcinogen. It is recommended that not more than 455 gram of cooked red meat should be consumed in a week,” Parag Kumar, Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS.

However, according to Rashmi Sharma, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology (breast services) at Narayanan Superspeciality Hospital in Gurugram, red meat is an important source of good quality protein and micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc.

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“Women of childbearing age need this good quality protein for foetal development. But red meat also increases the chances of getting breast cancer so women should substitute this with poultry to get proteins and at the same time prevent getting breast cancer,” Sharma told IANS.

According to Nitin Leekha, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology at Jaypee Hospital in Noida, apart from reducing the consumption of red meat, there are a number of precautions and other lifestyle improvements which reduce the risk of cancer. (IANS)