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Twelfth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize

January 2002, San Diego CA

In 1990, the Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) established the annual Alice T. Schafer Prize for excellence in mathematics by an undergraduate woman. The prize is named for former AWM president and one of its founding members, Alice T. Schafer (Professor Emerita from Wellesley College), who has contributed a great deal to women in mathematics throughout her career. The criteria for selection includes, but is not limited to, the quality of the nominees' performance in mathematics courses and special programs, an exhibition of real interest in mathematics, the ability to do independent work, and if applicable, performance in mathematical competitions.

AWM is pleased to present the Twelfth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize to two outstanding young woman mathematicians: Kay Kirkpatrick from Montana State University and Melanie Wood, from Duke University.

Additionally, five outstanding young women were recognized at the conclusion of the AWM Panel on Sunday, January 6, 2002. AWM was pleased to recognize five outstanding women who were nominated and given an honorable mention in the Schafer Prize competition: Karen M. Lange, a senior who is a double major in mathematics and computer science at Swarthmore College; Sonja Mapes, a senior mathematics major at the University of Notre Dame; Amy E. Marinello a senior mathematics major at Swarthmore College; Kathleen A. Ponto, a senior mathematics major at the University of Notre Dame; and Grace C. Wang, a senior mathematics major at the University of California at Berkeley. Citations on the Honorable Mention recipients are available from the AWM.

Click here to learn more about the Alice T. Schafer Prize.


Schafer Prize Co-Winner: Kay Kirkpatrick

Kay Kirkpatrick is a senior at Montana State University. She has taken many graduate courses; her professors say that she "routinely takes 20-22 credits per term, earning A's in them all." In summer 2000, she participated in the Industrial Mathematics Workshop for Graduate Students at the Center for Research in Scientific Computation at North Carolina State University. Her mentor there says that Kay "was extremely insightful, very creative in her thinking, and was the intellectual peer of the best graduate students in the program. She is one of the brightest undergraduates I have encountered in more than 30 years in academia." He says that her team's work is "destined for publication." Kay also participated in an REU in summer 2001, resulting in a paper being published. Her mentor in this program says that Kay "was just a delight to work with, and to talk to. If I had made a wish-list for the perfect candidate for my summer REU program, Kay would have exceeded that beyond all expectations." In addition, Kay was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2001. One of her professors says that Kay is "an extremely warm, respectable, enthusiastic and hard working person. Her brilliance and dedication renew my inspiration as a professor."

Response from Kay Kirkpatrick

I feel extremely honored to be numbered among today's rising women in math. The Association for Women in Mathematics is doing a wonderful thing to encourage and support aspiring mathematicians. I'll spend the rest of my life repaying this debt to AWM and to all of my professors and mentors. You all have not only supported me, but also have been true inspirations. I'd like to thank the Honors Program and Music Department at MSU for bringing me to Montana State University - Bozeman in the first place. I feel indebted to the math professors who noticed my ability while I was still a psychology major, and those who continued to nurture me when I switched to math. Kudos to the scientists and mathematicians at the Center for Computational Biology at MSU, the Modeling Workshop at North Carolina State, and the University of Houston, who all helped me discover the exhilaration of being on the cutting edge of research. Because of each one of you, the quality of my undergraduate education has exceeded even my own high expectations. Special thanks to my family, who always told me that I could do whatever I wanted, even before I figured out what "whatever" was. And to my sister Bonnie, who is also my roommate, best friend and biggest fan: you know you're a mathematician at heart.


Schafer Prize Co-Winner: Melanie Wood

Melanie Wood is a junior at Duke University. In 1999, she was a member of Duke's 3rd-place Putnam team and received an Honorable Mention for her individual Putnam performance. She has excelled in many graduate courses, beginning in the fall of her freshman year and continuing to the present. Her professors say that Melanie is "a truly remarkable student, one of the best I have ever encountered in my 21 years of teaching" and that "I know that she will become a top-flight mathematician." In summer 2000, she participated in an REU which resulted in a paper that has been submitted to a well-respected journal. Her mentor from this program expects that the paper will be accepted and writes that "in this elite group (of REU participants) Melanie ranks with the best." She has recently begun independent research on another topic and "has already made original and non-trivial progress." In addition, Melanie was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2001. Her professors agree that Melanie "has a passion for mathematics" and "will become a wonderful role model for others."

Response from Melanie Wood

It is a wonderful honor to be awarded the Alice T. Schafer Prize from the Association for Women in Mathematics. I would like to thank those who established the award for their vision to recognize and encourage young women mathematicians. Mathematics, though extremely rewarding, is a difficult career to pursue, and thus it is so important for young mathematicians to feel support from the community as they pursue their careers. I want to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for showing me such support and recognizing me among such outstanding young women mathematicians. Also, I would like to thank the Duke Math Department for providing an encouraging, supportive, challenging, and exciting environment in which to do mathematics. My wonderful experience in the department has really solidified my decision to go to math graduate school and pursue math research as a career. In particular, I would like to thank David Kraines for his help in practically every aspect of my mathematical activities, Richard Hain for being a great research mentor, Robert Bryant for leading me through exciting independent work, and Paul Aspinwall for challenging and inspiring classes. The Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Minnesota-Duluth has also been an invaluable part of my undergraduate mathematical career. I would like to thank everyone there who helped me with my research, especially Manjul Bhargava for everything from inspiration to detailed comments on my paper. Finally, I would like to thank Joe Gallian for creating such a top-notch program, inviting me to attend, and supporting all of my mathematical endeavors.

AWM is further pleased to recognize five outstanding women who were nominated and given an honorable mention in the Schafer Prize competition: Karen M. Lange, a senior who is a double major in mathematics and computer science at Swarthmore College; Sonja Mapes, a senior mathematics major at the University of Notre Dame; Amy E. Marinello a senior mathematics major at Swarthmore College; Kathleen A. Ponto, a senior mathematics major at the University of Notre Dame; and Grace Wang, a senior mathematics major at the University of California at Berkeley.


Honorable Mention: Karen M. Lange

Karen M. Lange is currently a senior at Swarthmore College and will graduate with an Honors Major in mathematics as well as an Honors Minor in computer science. Ms. Lange has participated in three summer programs (Carleton/St. Olaf, an REU at William and Mary, and an REU at DIMACS), and spent her fall doing the Budapest Semester in Mathematics. She was described as "at the 'top of the bunch' from an extremely bright and gifted bunch" in the Carleton Summer Math Program in 1999. Her work at the William and Mary REU produced a paper in matrix theory submitted to a professional mathematics journal, and she has co-produced a mathematical website (which reads much like a paper) on her DIMACS results. Additionally, she is a Goldwater scholar.

Response from Karen M. Lange

I am greatly honored to be named an honorable mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize by the Association for Women in Mathematics. I would first like to thank the entire Swarthmore mathematics department for their incredible support and encouragement. In particular, I would like to thank Professors Helene Shapiro, Cheryl Grood, Janet Talvacchia, and Aimee Johnson. I would also like to thank all those who provided me with such wonderful summer experiences at Carleton College, the College of William and Mary, and DIMACS, especially Professors David Stanford, Mel Janowitz, and Karen Brucks.


Honorable Mention: Sonja Mapes

Sonja Mapes is currently a senior at Notre Dame. In addition to a statistics internship in Washington completed after her second year of college, she participated in the Williams College SMALL REU on Commutative Algebra in 2001. The paper produced by her research group (which included another Schafer Honorable Mention, Grace Wang) is impressive in its depth, particularly given the amount of background the authors needed to absorb in order to approach the problem. Sonja's research mentor cited her as having "contributed greatly to both the mathematical work and the morale of the group." She was invited as a junior into the Notre Dame Seminar in Undergraduate Mathematics, which investigates advanced mathematical topics in preparation for graduate school work.

Response from Sonja Mapes

I want to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for this honor. I would also like to thank the mathematics department at the University of Notre Dame, especially Professor Frank Connolly and Professor Dennis Snow for all of their support and advice. Finally, I would also like to thank all of those involved with the Williams College REU program, especially my advisor Professor Susan Loepp.


Honorable Mention: Amy E. Marinello

Amy E. Marinello is a senior at Swarthmore College. In summer 2000, she participated in the SMALL REU at Williams College. Her research there resulted in a co-authored paper on double ergodicity which has been accepted for publication in the Illinois Journal of Mathematics. Her REU mentor writes that Amy "has a very strong natural talent for mathematical research" and that "her work was crucial in many of the breakthroughs." In summer 2001, Amy also participated in the Director's Summer Program at the National Security Agency. Her professors agree that she is "strikingly gifted" and that "her work is characterized by true creativity."

Response from Amy E. Marinello

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for this honor. I want to express my gratitude towards all the teachers, professors, and mathematicians who have provided me with inspiration and encouragement, particularly the faculty of Swarthmore College's mathematics department. I extend special thanks to Professors Janet Talvacchia and Thomas Hunter.


Honorable Mention: Kathleen A. Ponto

Kathleen A. Pontois a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is in the University Honors Program and will also graduate with honors in mathematics. In summer 2000, she participated in three summer programs (two at Notre Dame, and an NSF sponsored REU at University of Tennessee). She then studied math during her junior year abroad at Trinity College, Dublin. In addition, she participated in an REU at University of Minnesota, Duluth in summer 2001. This work resulted in a paper in graph theory which has been submitted to well-respected journal. Her professors write that Kate "displays true brilliance," is a "creative problem solver," and that she "will have a fine research career in mathematics."

Response from Kathleen A. Ponto

I was pleased and honored to have been named honorable mention for the Alice T. Schaefer Prize by the Association of Women in Mathemetics. I want to extend my gratitude to the University of Notre Dame mathematics faculty and particularly my thesis advisor, Francis Connolly, who has been most generous with his knowledge, time, and energy. I also want to thank Joe Gallian and Gretchen Matthews for their support and encouragement.


Honorable Mention: Grace C. Wang

Grace C. Wang is currently a senior at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to attending the Budapest Semester in Mathematics, she participated in the Williams College SMALL REU on Commutative Algebra in 2001. The paper produced by her research group (which included another Schafer Honorable Mention, Sonja Mapes) is impressive in its depth, particularly given the amount of background the authors needed to absorb in order to approach the problem. Grace's research mentor cited her as having "an impressive ability to ask just the right questions." After her abstract algebra course ended, she organized an informal seminar for further study.

Response from Grace C. Wang

I would like to thank the AWM for honoring me. I would also like to thank the members of the math department at Berkeley for creating a fun and supportive environment in which to learn mathematics and Professors Serkan Hosten, Andras Kroo, Susan Loepp, Bernd Sturmfels, and especially Ken Ribet for helping and for encouraging me. I hope that someday I, too, will be able to inspire others to study mathematics.

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