image credit: AP, Stanford

37-year-old Stanford University Professor Maryam Mirzakhani is now a Fields Medal winner. She was awarded the world’s most prestigious mathematics honor by the International Mathematics Union in Seoul on Wednesday. The Fields Medal is the highest mathematical honor and awards $13,700 to mathematicians that are 40 years old or younger. The Fields Medal award is given every four years.

Maryam Mirzakhani, born in Tehran, Iran, won the award due to her mathematical equations on the symmetry of curved surfaces (including doughnuts, for example). She says that she always wanted to be a writer but found mathematics to be something akin to a detective looking for clues.

Mirzakhani said regarding her award that she may be the first female to win it, but not the last: “This is a great honor. It encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years,” she told Stanford University.

Mirzakhani teaches on Teichmuller and Ergodic Theory at Stanford University, though she also holds other mathematical interests such as hyperbolic and symplectic geometry. Mirzakhani obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics (BSc Mathematics) from Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology in 1999, then went on to pursue her doctorate at Harvard University and graduated from Harvard in 2004. In 2004, she was a professor at Princeton University, but joined the Stanford University faculty in September 1, 2008.