Back in 2014, The International Mathematical Union chose to give the honour to Mirzakhani after she discovered new advances in the theory of Riemann surface. The organisation commends some of the best mathematicians every four years that are under the age of 40.
This math legend didn’t achieve the glory overnight: before she even went to college, Mirzakhani won gold at the International Mathematical Olympiad, the world’s most honoured math tournament for pre-college students.
After getting her undergrad degree at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, Mirzakhani went off to Harvard to get her PhD. She now works as a professor of mathematics at Stanford.
Over the years, her work has also potentially innovated different areas of study like mechanical engineering and material science.
Being the first female to win this prestigious award, people are considering this the first sign of many changes for the future. According to the National Academy of Sciences, studies show no biological differences that would explain the low representation of women in STEM academic faculty and leadership roles.
In an interview with Stanford News, Mirzakhani said she hopes to inspire more women to reach for their dreams:
“This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.
I think it’s rarely about what you actually learn in class … it’s mostly about things that you stay motivated to go and continue to do on your own.”