AWM Dissertation Prize 2021

Michelle Feng, Kathryn Link and Isabel Vogt to receive the fifth annual Association for Women in Mathematics Dissertation Prize

In January 2016 the Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics established the AWM Dissertation Prize, an annual award for up to three outstanding PhD dissertations presented by female mathematical scientists and defended during the 24 months preceding the deliberations for the award. The award is intended to be based entirely on the dissertation itself, not on other work of the individual.

Michelle Feng, Kathryn Link and Isabel Vogt  will be presented with 2021 AWM Dissertation Prize at the AWM Reception and Awards Presentation at the 2021 JMM.

Citation for Michelle Feng

Michelle Feng received her PhD in 2020 at the University of California, Los Angeles, under the direction of Mason A. Porter. She currently holds a postdoctoral research position at the California Institute of Technology. She received the Pacific Journal of Mathematics Dissertation Award.

Feng works in topological data analysis. In this field, methods from algebraic topology are applied to studying the structure of data.  In her dissertation, Feng develops novel simplicial-complex constructions for spatial data arising in complex systems. These constructions are then applied to different sets of data. In particular, one such construction is applied to the study of patterns of neighborhood formation based on combining demographic and spatial data. She applied an approach called “persistent homology” to California voting data. Results of the thesis have appeared in papers in Physical Review Research, and in SIAM Review.

Her letter writers indicate that “Feng’s thesis is a masterpiece, beautifully connecting abstract theoretical tools from algebraic topology with real-world applications with a distinct social justice focus.” 

“Her thesis puts forward a number of exciting new tools to study data sets …”

“She has written a truly fantastic dissertation” which is “a tour de force in topological data analysis.”

Citation for Kathryn Link

Kathryn Link received her PhD in 2020 from University of Utah under the direction of Aaron Fogelson. She now holds a postdoctoral position as Krener Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis.

Link’s work is in mathematical biology. In her dissertation titled “Mathematical Models of Flow-Mediated Intravascular and Extravascular Blood Clotting”, she uses mathematical modeling, analysis and computation to contribute in several ways to understanding the dynamics and regulation of blood clotting. Her development and analysis of a model of the blood clotting regulatory cascade led to a discovery which was subsequently verified experimentally and leads to further prediction for an appropriate drug target for hemophilia A. Another major contribution of Link’s is an ODE compartmental model of blood clotting in a  microfluidic device, work that she has been invited to present to clinicians and biologists at the Gordon Research Conference on Thrombosis and Hemostasis.

Her highly interdisciplinary work led to three first-authored journal publications in PLOS ONE, Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis, and SIAM Journal on Multiscale Modeling and Simulation. Her letter writers concur that “Katie’s work is on the edge of mathematics and hematology/biology; making a meaningful impact in both communities”.

Citation for Isabel Vogt

Isabel Vogt received her PhD in 2019 from MIT under the supervision of Bjorn Poonen and Joe Harris. After spending one year as an NSF Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford where she also received the Maryam Mirzakhani Postdoctoral Fellowship, she is now an Assistant professor at the University of Washington.

Vogt’s dissertation titled “Some results in the arithmetic and geometry of curves” makes advances in several quite different problems in algebraic geometry and number theory. One of them is the Enriques Conjecture, where she contributed impressive partial results and an extension of the conjecture to generalized Severi varieties. Another area is her work on the problem of interpolation for space curves – the tools developed in her dissertation were essential in the recent proof of the Maximal Rank Conjecture that had been open since the early 1900s.

This research has led to five publications in research journals, including the International Mathematics Research Notices and the Proceedings of the AMS. The letter writers praise Vogt’s dissertation work for the impact on the filed beyond her own work via an impressively broad range of projects.

Response from Vogt

I am very honored and excited to receive the AWM Dissertation Award.  I would like to thank those who nominated me and supported my nomination with letters.  I am indebted to Bjorn Poonen and Joe Harris for their generosity with ideas and unfailing support.  I also learned so much in graduate school from my academic siblings and the broader stimulating mathematics community at MIT and Harvard — thank you!  I would especially like to thank Eric Larson and Geoff Smith for collaborating on chapters of my thesis.