AWM Dissertation Prize 2022

Jinyoung Park, Rita Teixeira da Costa and Heather Denise Wilber to receive the sixth 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.

Jinyoung Park, Rita Teixeira da Costa and Heather Denise Wilber will be presented with 2022 AWM Dissertation Prize at the Joint Prize Session at the 2022 JMM in Seattle, Washington.

Citation for Jinyoung Park

Jinyoung Park’s 2020 dissertation, written at Rutgers University under the supervision of Jeff Kahn, is comprised of five papers, published in: The Annals of Mathematics, Combinatorica (in press), Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, and Israel Journal of Mathematics. The work settles major conjectures and runs the gamut from isoperimetric inequalities to random discrete structures. The results are deemed “spectacular” and her innovative techniques “groundbreaking” by expert letters supporting the nomination. In fact, the proof of the Talagrand conjecture (which had generated a great amount of work since being stated in 2010) “easily implies some of the most celebrated—and notoriously difficult—results in the subject” and allowed the solutions of problems “on which earlier (ingenious, difficult) work had made only limited progress”. The result on isoperimetry in the cube “gives unexpected, simple proofs” of known facts that had been established by renowned researchers. It is also noted that Dr. Park’s outstanding achievements follow a career as a middle and high school teacher in the Republic of Korea. She is now a Szegö Assistant Professor at Stanford University.

Response from Park

I am thrilled and honored to receive the AWM Dissertation Award. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my advisor Jeff Kahn for his years of guidance and support. I am also grateful to Bhargav Narayanan for his mentorship and support. I would like to thank Keith Frankston, who I collaborated with for some of the work in my dissertation, for stimulating discussions. I was lucky to be surrounded by the friendly environment at Rutgers University math department. Finally, I would like to thank my husband and my daughter for their love and support.

Citation for Rita Teixeira da Costa

Rita Teixeira da Costa received her PhD in 2021 at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Mihalis Dafermos. She is now an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton and a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College in Cambridge.

Teixeira da Costa’s research is focused on differential equations arising in general relativity. Her work represents important rigorous mathematical progress on the celebrated black hole stability problem, a central question in the subject, at the intersection of mathematics, theoretical physics, and astronomy. Her thesis titled “Frequency space analysis in General Relativity” contains four major results, full of original ideas introducing new techniques to the problems. 

According to the expert letter writers “Rita’s thesis is an outstanding piece of work that resolves a major problem in the field of general relativity.” Moreover, they praise her presentation and explanation as demonstrating that “besides a complete command of the mathematical techniques involved, Rita has a strong talent to make her work accessible and spends a lot of time thinking about the best way to present an argument.”

Response from Teixeira da Costa

I am very honored and happy to receive the AWM Dissertation Prize, and I would like to thank the AWM for providing this great opportunity to young academics like me. I am also very grateful to those who nominated me for this award, and who have supported my academic career in the past 4 years. I would like to especially thank my advisor, Mihalis Dafermos. Mihalis introduced me to the fascinating world of PDEs and General Relativity, and he has an outstanding talent to create a positive, stimulating environment around him and his students. I am also grateful to the University of Cambridge and Trinity College for their support over my masters and PhD studies, and to Princeton University for its hospitality during several research visits.

Citation for Heather Denise Wilber

Heather Denise Wilber received her PhD in 2021 at Cornell University under the direction of Professor Alex Townsend. She is currently an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the Oden Institute, University of Texas at Austin.

Wilber’s interests include approximation theory, numerical linear algebra, and scientific computing. In her beautifully written dissertation titled “Computing numerically with rational functions,” Wilber presents new numerical methods using rational functions for solving Sylvester and Lyapunov matrix equations whose right-hand sides have decaying singular values. She brings a tremendous breadth of mathematics together to do this, combining rational approximation theory in the complex plane, including associated conformal mapping problems, and numerical linear algebra, focusing on the important and hot topic of low-rank approximation. In addition, the thesis develops a rational approximation framework for adaptive computing in the context of signal processing.

As one letter writer noted, “Chapter 4 makes a very impressive contribution, a new solver for linear systems with Toeplitz structure. … With deep insights from rational approximation and other tools, Wilber has found a completely novel, deterministic construction that offers the potential to outperform randomized algorithms.” Fittingly, this work has resulted in multiple papers in scientific journals. They appear in the SIAM Journal of Scientific Computing, Linear Algebra and its Applications, and Constructive Approximation (to appear).

Response from Wilber

I am deeply honored to have received the AWM Dissertation Award. I thank those that nominated me and supported my nomination with their letters. I am grateful to the many mentors and collaborators that I worked with during my time as a graduate student, including Nick Trefethen, Daniel Kressner, Bernhard Beckermann, Grady Wright, Anil Damle, Daniel Rubin, and my advisor Alex Townsend. I also thank the Cornell Center for Applied Mathematics. Their commitment to the support of women in scholarship has been especially instrumental to my success. The future of mathematics is shaped by the institutions that nurture it, and the mathematics community at Cornell has inspired in me a broad, inviting, and invigorating vision of that future.