Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman 1996

Ioana Dumitriu, a freshman at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is the winner of the seventh annual Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize.

In addition to the winner, Karen Ball, a senior at Grinnell College, and Wung-kum Fong, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, were declared runners-up, and AWM awarded an honorable mention citation to Tara S. Holm from Dartmouth College.

Schafer Prize Winner: Ioana Dumitriu

Ioana Dumitriu is a 19-year-old freshman at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (NYU/CIMS). She came to CIMS from Romania for her undergraduate studies and immediately began taking graduate level courses. Her professors uniformly describe her as “truly exceptional,” “extremely impressive,” “absolutely brilliant,” a student “whose mathematical instincts, talent, and knowledge are apparent almost from the beginning.” They also remark on her exceptional problem solving abilities and “great independence of thought and originality.” This was confirmed (apparently to no one’s surprise) when she won this year’s Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize for her performance in the Putnam Competition. As one letter states, “There is no doubt that Ioana will become a mathematician, the only question is whether she will be a world class mathematician…. I can’t think of anyone whose chances are better.”

Runner-Up: Karen Ball

Karen Ball is a senior at Grinnell College in Iowa, where she is consistently at the top of her advanced mathematics classes. As a junior, she participated in the Budapest Semester in Mathematics program, where she audited Complex Analysis in addition to earning all A’s in her regular courses. The summer after her sophomore year, she worked on a research project under Professor Charles Jepsen and obtained “with almost no guidance” results which will appear in a paper entitled “Packing Unequal Squares” in the Journal of Combinatorial Theory, Series A. She is described as “a remarkable student who is destined to have a great career in mathematics.” In the fall, Ball will begin graduate studies in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Runner-Up: Wung-kum Fong

Wung-kum Fong is a senior at the University of California at Berkeley. During her junior and senior years, she has been taking graduate level courses and seminars in advanced topics. She has ranked among the best students in these classes. She is described as an “exceptional student,” “stronger than many graduate students” at Berkeley. One of her instructors characterized her as “one of the brightest undergraduates I’ve ever met.” In addition to her course work, Wung-kum participated in the 1994 Mills College/Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Summer Program. In the fall, Fong will begin graduate studies in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Honorable Mention: Tara S. Holm

Tara S. Holm is a junior at Dartmouth College. In addition to performing well in advanced math courses, she has been involved in research projects since the summer following her freshman year. She has written a paper on sphere-of-influence graphs with Professor Kenneth Bogart who states, “In doing this work, Tara was not just solving a problem, she was developing a theory, discovering a problem, and then solving it.” Tara is currently participating in the Budapest Semester in Mathematics and plans to attend the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth this summer.