This week, the International Mathematical Union awarded their Fields Medal. This is an incredible honor in the world of mathematics, perhaps garnering more prestige than the Nobel Prize, in part because the Fields Medal is only awarded every four years.
Four Fields Medal winners were announced on Wednesday, but the individual garnering the most attention is Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University. Why? Because Dr. Mirzakhani is a woman. A young woman. A young Iranian-born woman.
A female earning this honor is a first in the Fields Medal awards, and while there’s part of me that says, “It’s about time!,” most of me is focused on how much attention is being brought to her research. She’s being recognized for her work in the field of dynamics.
I’m quite familiar with dynamics, at least in my area of expertise. The word “dynamics” stems from the Greek word dynamikos, meaning “power.” In meteorology, “atmospheric dynamics” is the study of the motions in the atmosphere. From the smallest microclimates to tornadoes to hurricanes.
Dr. Mirzakhani’s work with dynamics in a much more pure sense: She works with dynamics of any and all systems. And not just physical systems. For fear of getting this information wrong, I’m going to point you towards Jordan Ellenberg’s explanation of her research as written at Slate.com earlier this week. It’s a fantastic explanation that I think even non-mathematicians will understand well.
From everyone at GeekMom, congratulations to all of the Fields Medal winners!