Maryam Mirzakhani among Seven Women Scientists Who Have Shaped the World

Sunday, February 16, 2020 - 11:23

Only 30 percent of researchers and just 35 percent of students in STEM related fields are women, based on the United Nations report.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February, is implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote women and girls in science.

On the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UN-Women reported the name of seven women who have shaped our world.

Tu Youyou is a pharmaceutical chemist whose visionary research on malaria treatment is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine.

Kiara Nirghin, winner of 2016 Google Science Fair for creating a super absorbent polymer that can retain over 100 times its mass—potentially revolutionizing water conservation and sustaining crops through periods of drought. Best yet: it’s low-cost and biodegradable, made of orange peels and avocado skins.

Katherine Johnson is a mathematician whose calculations have been essential to U.S. space exploration. As a NASA scientist, Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths that flew the first U.S. astronauts into space and Earth’s orbit.

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist whose radioactivity research laid the foundation for modern nuclear science, from X-rays to radiotherapy for treating cancer. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes in different sciences.

Marcia Barbosa is a Brazilian physicist known for her research on the complex structures of the water molecule. Barbosa has developed a series of models of water’s properties that may improve our understanding on a wide variety of topics, such as: how earthquakes occur, proteins fold, cleaner energy is generated, and diseases are treated. In 2013, she was awarded the L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science.

Segenet Kelemu is a molecular plant pathologist whose cutting-edge research is dedicated to helping the world’s smallholder farmers grow more food and rise out of poverty.

In 1994, Maryam Mirzakhani became the first female Iranian student to win the gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad, scoring 41 out of 42 points, and in 2015 she returned to win with a perfect score.

She earned her PhD from Harvard University and was a leading scholar on the dynamics and geometry of complex surfaces. In 2014, she became the first female winner of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics.

“The more I spent time on mathematics, the more excited I became,” Mirzakhani said of her research. She recalls loving “the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new, the feeling of being on top of a hill, and having a clear view.”

Although Mirzakhani passed away in 2017, her invaluable contributions to the field of mathematics endure, and her trailblazing career has paved the way forward for many women mathematicians to come.

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