AWM Dissertation Prize 2024

Abigail Hickok and Parvathi M. Kooloth to Receive the Eighth 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.

Abigail Hickok and Parvathi M. Kooloth will be presented with 2024 AWM Dissertation Prize at the Joint Prize Session at the 2024 JMM in San Francisco, CA.

Citation for Abigail Hickok

Abigail Hickok received her PhD in 2023 at UCLA under the supervision of Mason Porter. She is currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University.

Hickok’s dissertation consists of work from six papers and a book chapter in the area of topological and geometric data analysis. In topological data analysis one uses ideas from algebraic topology to analyze the global structure and “shape” of data not captured by traditional methods in data science, often using persistent homology. In geometric data analysis, one tries to extract the geometry of the data, like curvature, in addition to the topological information. Although her work can be viewed as applied mathematics, she uses many ideas from pure mathematics — from subjects such as algebraic topology, geometry, and probability. Hickok defines the notion of a persistent-diagram (PD) bundle and develops an algorithm to compute piecewise linear PD bundles. She uses this to study the theory and algorithms for dynamic datasets (evolving over time) and study how its persistent homology (PH) changes over time. In another paper, Hickok considers the analysis of spatial and spatiotemporal anomalies, with detailed case studies to COVID-19 infection cases in Los Angeles and vaccination rates in New York City. One letter writer wrote “the method that Abby has developed is the current state-of-the-art approach for using persistent homology to study geospatial and geospatiotemporal data.”

Response from Hickok

I am very honored and excited to receive the AWM Dissertation Prize. I would like to express my immense gratitude to Mason Porter, my PhD advisor, for nominating me and for supporting me throughout my PhD. I would like to sincerely thank the Association of Women in Math for giving me this award, as well as those who wrote letters of support for me—Andrew Blumberg, Heather Harrington, and Katherine Turner. I wish to acknowledge my exceptional coauthors—Mason, Andrew, Ben Jarman, Michael Johnson, Jiajie Luo, Deanna Needell—whose collaborations contributed to my dissertation. Last but not least, I want to express my deep appreciation for the unwavering support of my parents, siblings, and partner, whose encouragement has been a constant source of motivation throughout my academic journey.

Citation for Parvathi M. Kooloth

Parvathi M. Kooloth received her PhD in Mathematics in 2022 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the direction of Professor Leslie M. Smith. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Kooloth is interested in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Climate Feedbacks, Data Science, and Dynamical Systems. Her groundbreaking thesis titled “Moist potential vorticity and coherent structures in the atmosphere.” In it, she was able to solve a long-standing puzzle in the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and the ocean. She introduced a moist potential vorticity and dealt with clouds in the atmosphere and with phase changes using a new Hamiltonian/Lagrangian formulation. In a series of elegant theoretical analyses, Kolooth derived fundamental conservation laws for compressible and incompressible moist dynamics with phase changes. She also uses idealized numerical simulations to demonstrate and track the existence of the special potential-vorticity-conserving volumes. As one of her letter writers said “Her dissertation work is without question the most important work in recent years in the mathematics of climate. Her theories will reshape how we think about geophysical flows with phase changes and will drive new approaches to climate modeling.”

Response from Kooloth

I am thrilled to receive the AWM Dissertation award. I am grateful to the letter writers who supported my nomination and to the AWM selection committee for deeming my work worthy of this honor. I am especially thankful for the support and excellent counsel of my advisor Leslie Smith during my graduate studies. I also wish to thank Sam Stechmann for the many insightful discussions and suggestions that helped shape this work. And I am incredibly lucky to have had the love and support of my family and friends.