Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Women 1994

Jing Rebecca Li, a junior at the University of Michigan, is the winner of the fifth annual Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize.

In addition to the winner, Patricia Hersh, a junior at Harvard University, Julia J. Rehmeyer, a senior at Wellesley College, and Nina Zipser, a senior at Columbia University, were declared runners-up. Two honorable mention citations were awarded to Jennifer M. Switkes, Harvey Mudd College and Yi Wang, Bryn Mawr College.

Schafer Prize Winner: Jing Rebecca Li

Our winner Jing Rebecca Li, a junior at the University of Michigan, is a relative newcomer to mathematics. An outstanding mechanical engineering student, with a published paper on the deformation of bicrystals, Li switched to mathematics only last fall. Since then, she has excelled in demanding undergraduate and graduate courses, performing at the level of the best graduate students. The summer before she entered the mathematics Honors Program, she participated in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at the Geometry Center, University of Minnesota, where she studied computer music. In his letter of nomination for the Schafer Prize, one of her professors writes, “I have taught some very bright undergraduates, but I would rank her in the upper one-half percent of the undergraduates (male and female) I have known.” In addition to praising Li for her remarkable achievement in mathematics in so short a time, Li’s nominators commented on her impressive record in such diverse disciplines as physics, computer science, philosophy, Russian literature, and Asian history! Her letters of recommendation for the Prize stressed her determination, stemming from her “burning desire to learn,” her love of mathematics, and her energy.

Runner-Up: Patricia Hersh

Runner-up Patricia Hersh, a junior at Harvard University, has already written two research papers on graph theory, which have been submitted for publication. One of her nominators writes, “She is comparable to the best students I have seen in my classes.” Last summer, she participated in an REU program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The director writes, “In my 17 years running summer research programs it has been my experience that each year only one or two of the participants seem to have the ideal blend of talent, work ethic and personality. Patricia Hersh is one of these people.” In previous summers, she served as a counselor at an NSF mathematics program at Boston University for talented high school students, of which she herself was an alumna.

Runner-Up: Julia J. Rehmeyer

Runner-up Julia J. Rehmeyer is a senior at Wellesley College. In a letter of recommendation, one of her professors writes, “Ms. Rehmeyer is certainly the strongest student I have known in my 14 years at Wellesley, but that doesn’t describe how different she is from any other student I have known here. She is extraordinarily bright, self-motivated, and thorough, with an intellectual maturity that would suit a mature mathematician.” Rehmeyer’s work at Wellesley and in undergraduate and graduate courses at MIT is outstanding. She has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Runner-Up: Nina Zipser

Runner-up Nina Zipser has been awarded Columbia University’s prestigious Kellet Fellowship, for study at Cambridge University. A senior at Barnard College, she also won the competition for the mathematics department’s Van Buren Prize. Referred to in a letter of nomination as “the overall best student I have taught,” Zipser not only earned A’s and A+’s in graduate mathematics courses, but is now working on two research projects: “the universality of lengths of closed geodesics in hyperbolic manifolds” and an experimental project search for “degenerate groups.”

Honorable Mention: Jennifer M. Switkes

Honorable mention awardee Jennifer M. Switkes is a senior at Harvey Mudd College majoring in both mathematics and physics who is commended by her nominators both for her outstanding work in courses and for her “original and ambitious research.” She has won numerous awards and scholarships for her work in both physics and mathematics.

Honorable Mention: Yi Wang

Honorable mention awardee Yi Wang is a senior at Bryn Mawr College, where she is completing a double major in mathematics and economics. She is described as a “truly extraordinary student.” She has participated in several research programs, including the Bryn Mawr-Spelman Summer Program, an REU at Mt. Holyoke, and a senior research program on wavelets.