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Thirteenth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize

January 2003, Baltimore MD

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 Thirteenth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize to Kate Gruher, a senior at University of Chicago.

Additionally, AWM was pleased to recognize two Runners up: Wei Ho, a senior at Harvard University, and Josephine T. Yu, a senior at the University of California, Davis. Three more students were given Honorable mention: Elizabeth F. Thoren, a senor at University of Alabama, Huntsville, Annalee H. Wiswell, a senior at Scripps College, and Kathryn M. Zuhr, a senior at Mount Holyoke College.

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


Schafer Prize Winner: Kate Gruher

Kate Gruher is a senior at the University of Chicago. She excelled in the Honors Calculus, Honors Algebra, and Honors Analysis sequences. During the summer after her sophomore year, she participated in the ergodic theory group of the SMALL REU at Williams College.

A paper she co-authored on power weak mixing will appear in the New York Journal of Mathematics for which her "work was crucial" and for which she "provided many of the new ideas." In the summer of 2002, she participated in the highly exclusive Director's Summer Program at the National Security Agency (NSA), at which she contributed "the constructions of families of new examples" which "may improve the efficiency of an algorithm important to NSA." In addition to her classes and research, Kate has graded and run problem sessions for calculus, assisted with New Student Orientation, and worked as a counselor with the University of Chicago's middle school Young Scholars Program.

Her recommenders say that "Kate has a very special talent for mathematical research and for explaining mathematics to others," and that "she is a true scholar ... she ... has the right aptitude to make a serious long-term contribution to mathematics."

Response from Kate Gruher

I feel greatly honored to receive the AWM's Alice T. Schafer Prize. The AWM provides incredibly important support to women in early stages of their careers as mathematicians and I believe that their vision will help many young women achieve their goals. I feel greatly encouraged in my ambitions by the AWM's support and belief in my abilities. I would like to thank the mathematics department at the University of Chicago for nurturing my love of math, and my classmates and co-researchers for showing me beauty in our work. I would especially like to thank Professor Peter May for nominating me and advising me in many decisions; Professor Paul Sally for his advice and wonderful teaching; and Professor Kevin Corlette for encouraging me to continue studying math at the beginning of my undergraduate career. I would also like to thank Professor Cesar Silva and Dr. Elisabeth Pyle for making my summer research projects interesting and successful. Your support and teachings have helped me realize just how exhilarating math can be.


Schafer Prize Runner-Up: Wei Ho

Wei Ho is a senior at Harvard University. She has taken or is taking graduate algebra, analysis, algebraic topology, and algebraic geometry and "worked on problems in graph theory and combinatorial geometry." She participated in the NSF-sponsored REU at University of Minnesota, Duluth, at which she produced original results in m-step competition numbers of paths and cycles. Her advisor is "confident that her paper will be accepted for publication" in a prestigious journal. She "has already developed... an admirable commitment to mathematical service" which is shown in her assistance with the Harvard/MIT high-school math tournament and Mandelbrot competition, involvement in peer tutoring, and organizing women's activities in the Math Club. Her recommenders say that she "has exceptional mathematical talent" and "will likely develop into an excellent research mathematician."

Response from Wei Ho

I am most grateful to the Association for Women in Mathematics for this extraordinary honor and for its role in supporting female mathematicians throughout their careers. Although I am indebted to many people for their encouragement and mathematical inspiration, I would especially like to thank Professor Noam Elkies for his nomination as well as Professor Joseph Gallian for all of his guidance at the Duluth REU. As always, I am grateful to my family and friends for their continual encouragement in mathematics and in life.


Schafer Prize Runner-Up: Josephine T. Yu

Josephine T. Yu is a senior at University of California, Davis, She has been working with her VIGRE research advisor since the end of her freshman year and recently coauthored a paper in quantum algebra which is available on the arXiv. Josephine won the UC Davis Spring Mathematics Contest but "never received any training for problem solving skills aimed at winning a contest" and has completed a graduate combinatorics course in which she successfully "competed with some of the smartest graduate students." In addition, Josephine has been President of both the UC Davis Math Club and the local Pi Mu Epsilon chapter, assisted in a third-term Calculus course, and tutored for two years. Her recommenders say that she "is a talented student of mathematics who consistently seeks to dig deeper and reach higher" and "is THE top undergraduate student of her generation here at UC Davis."

Response from Josephine T. Yu

I am tremendously honored to be a runner-up for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I appreciate AWM for giving the woman mathematicians the much needed encouragement at the beginning of our careers. Knowing that my efforts are recognized, I will strive to achieve further and to contribute something back to the mathematical community. I thank the faculty, staff, and graduate students at the UC Davis math department for giving undergraduate students wonderful education and warm support. I am especially indebted to Professor Motohico Mulase for his guidance and for being the best research mentor. I also thank Professors Abigail Thompson and Evelyn Sitvia for inspiring me to be a math major, Professor Jesus De Loera and all my teachers for the invaluable education. Their confidence in me is always a motivation. I am also grateful to Nancy Davis and Rick West for their support and my friends and family for believing in me.


Honorable Mention: Elizabeth F. Thoren

Elizabeth F. Thoren is a senior at University of Alabama, Huntsville. She has taken graduate-level courses in topology, analysis, and probability. Elizabeth participated in the NSF-REU at Indiana University and in the MASS Program at Penn State, where she was recognized "for outstanding performance in Fluid Dynamics Class," "clearly demonstrated deep interest in learning new mathematics going well beyond the usual curriculum," and ''proved her ability for independent research work."

Response from Elizabeth F. Thoren

Response from Elizabeth F. Thoren: This recognition is a tremendous honor for me. I am indebted to the excellent professors and students involved in Indiana University's REU and the MASS Program at Penn State I am also grateful for all the support UAH's math department has given me. And I would especially like to thank Boris Kunin or being the best mentor ever.


Honorable Mention: Annalee H. Wiswell

Annalee H. Wiswell is a senior at Scripps College She attended the Carleton Summer Math Program for Women and then the NSF-REU at Mount Holyoke College, where she obtained results in algebraic number theory on which she is continuing work in her senior honors project. Faculty from other of the Claremont Colleges have "recognized her as one of the top students in every one of her classes." Her advisor says that "the more she learns the more limitless her interest in math seems to become."

Response from Annalee H. Wiswell

Response from Annalee H. Wiswell: I am delighted to have been awarded Honorable Mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would like to thank the mathematics departments at Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College for their support and encouragement. I am especially grateful to my advisor and mentor Christopher Towse (Scripps) and to Margaret Robinson (Mt. Holyoke) for her confidence in me. I am gladdened at the existence of the AWM and the support that they give to female mathematicians.


Honorable Mention: Kathryn M. Zuhr

Kathryn M. Zuhr is a senior at Mount Holyoke College She attended the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics and also the NSF-REU at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where she obtained results on the moduli space of certain tilings on Riemann surfaces, on which she is continuing work in her honors thesis. Additionally, Kathryn has "helped to head up and organize the mathematics club." Her recommenders say she has "an extremely strong background in mathematics and excellent intuition."

Response from Kathryn M. Zuhr

Response from Kathryn M. Zuhr: I am honored that the Association for Women in Mathematics recognized me with an honorable mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize Competition. I would like to thank the Mount Holyoke College Mathematics department for cultivating my interest in mathematics. Specific thanks go to Harriet Pollatsek and Margaret Robinson for advising me, and Alan Durfee and Donald O'Shea for overseeing my research. Finally, I am grateful to Allen Broughton at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for starting me on my research and continuing to support my endeavors.

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