In 1990, the Executive Committee of the AWM established the annual Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman. The prize is named for Alice T. Schafer (1915–2009), one of the founders of AWM and its second president, who contributed greatly to women in mathematics throughout her career.

Citation for Elena Kim, AWM 2021 Schafer Prize Winner:

Elena Kim is a senior math major at Pomona College.  She has excelled in all of her mathematics courses and received the top Pomona mathematics prize in every year that she has been a student at the College. 

Kim has also made important contributions to research, and she has three accepted or published papers.  She participated in the SMALL REU at Williams college where she worked on two projects, one related to the Erdos distance problem as well as an investigation in additive combinatorics.  Both of these papers have led to papers that have been submitted.  Kim also participated in an REU in Mathematical Analysis at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2019, where she worked on estimates on the Kohn Laplacian on CR manifolds.  For her senior thesis at Pomona, Kim is working on a project studying generalized Frobenius norms, and she has already made significant progress that will lead to another publication.

Kim has also participated in outreach and teaching activities, including helping to mentor middle schoolers in a summer mathematics camp during her REU in Michigan.  She has also served as a TA, grader and mentor at Pomona for several mathematics courses.  Kim’s mentors believe that she will have great success in a mathematical career, stating that she “keeps us on our toes” and “compares favorably to the best students I have seen in terms of independence, creativity, and motivation.” 

Response from Kim

I am extremely honored to have been selected as the recipient of this prize and would like to thank the AWM for all they do to support women in mathematics. 

I would like to thank all my professors at the Pomona math department, as well as those at Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna. I am especially thankful to Professor Stephan Garcia for believing in me, mentoring me, and fostering my love of analysis. I would also like to thank Professor Yunus Zeytuncu from University of Michigan-Dearborn for all his support and helping me gain confidence as a mathematician. I am extremely grateful for Professors Steven J. Miller and Eyviandur Palsson for their invaluable mentorship at the SMALL REU. Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, and teammates for all their support and my peers at Pomona and Harvey Mudd for their work in creating inclusive, collaborative environments that have undoubtedly led to my success.

Citation for Eunice Sukarto, AWM 2021 Schafer Prize Runner-Up:

Eunice Sukarto is a senior Mathematics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major at the University of California, Berkeley.  In her three and half years at Berkeley she has taken a wide variety of classes.  These include many graduate classes focusing on topology and algebra.  Her instructors describe her as careful, curious, persistent and welcoming challenges.  She has the enviable ability to learn deeply from confusions and mistakes.  

To complement her course work, Eunice has worked on three research projects, a senior thesis and computer science internships.   These research projects have explored different mathematical areas and have had very different structures.  Eunice worked on a project in computational algebraic geometry with a research mentor and this lead to a more independent project in geometric complexity theory. She has worked with a small group of collaborators through the AIM UP program on a project studying parking functions.  Her current project is her senior thesis which concerns homotopy theory and geometric representation theory.  Eunice has thrived in all of these settings and projects and currently has a published paper and two more preprints on the arXiv.     Her research mentors praise her energy, enthusiasm, imagination and originality.  They describe her as a delight to collaborate with because of these qualities and because she makes space for everyone in her research team.

Response from Sukarto

It’s an honor to be selected as runner-up for the Alice T. Schafer Prize and I would like to thank the AWM for supporting women in math. I am really grateful to Prof. Bernd Sturmfels for the many learning opportunities, Prof. David Nadler for his patience and support in supervising my senior thesis, and Prof. Alexander Givental for a whole year of algebraic topology. I wish to thank Laura Colmenarejo and the wonderful AIM UP team for fostering a fun and collaborative environment. I am thankful to Anna Seigal, Holly Mandel, and Prof. Ralph Morrison for mentoring me on the cubic surfaces project, and Lauren Heller for her kindness (and for letting me crash into her office hours). I would also like to thank my major advisor, Jennifer Sixt, for initiating meaningful connections. I am truly indebted to Berkeley’s math department where I first encountered the beauty of the subject, and to all my professors, mentors, and friends who have been sources of guidance and inspiration throughout my journey. I thank Lia for both mathematical and emotional support.  Finally, I am grateful towards my family for always having my back no matter what.

Citation for Vanshika Jain, AWM 2021 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention:

Vanshika Jain is a senior Mathematics major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She has participated in REUs at the University of Virginia and Emory, resulting in two published articles with two more in progress.  She approaches research with “ingenuity and unusual technical skill”, and has a “passion for building mathematical community”.

 In 2019 at the Emory REU, Jain worked on finding exact formulae for  fractional partition functions; she and her research partner continued working in the area after the REU to apply their methods to related open problems on Jensen polynomials.  In 2020, participating in the Virginia REU, Jain proved that no odd numbers of absolute value less than 100 are coefficients of any level 1 newforms.  In addition to her innovative mathematical research, Jain has also worked with a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on quantifying the impact of cities on global carbon reduction.

 Jain is the social chair of the Undergraduate Mathematics Association at MIT, has been involved with several mentoring programs, and works as a tutor at MIT’s Math Learning Center.  Her “generosity, patience and warmth” are appreciated as she “raises the level of those around her”.

Response from Jain

I would like to thank the AWM for recognizing undergraduate women in math. Thank you to the professors and teachers who supported my mathematical education. In particular, I would like to thank Professor Ken Ono for suggesting research problems and his guidance through my undergraduate education; I would like to thank Professor Ju-Lee Kim for her mentorship and support. I would also like to thank my high school teachers, Emmanuel Garcia and Andrew Fischer, and the PROMYS organization for sparking my interest in math. Finally, I am incredibly grateful to my family for their endless love and encouragement.

Citation for Korina Digalaki, AWM 2021 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention:

Korina Digalaki is a senior at mathematics major at MIT.  She has performed at or near the top of all of her mathematics classes, taking courses in a wide variety of areas including probability theory, algebraic topology, complex analysis, and representation theory.  While taking this impressive mathematics courseload, Digalaki is also obtaining a minor in computer science.

Digalaki has undertaken several research opportunities while a student at MIT.  She first impressed her mentors with her excellent work on an undergraduate research project on Spaltenstein fibers.  Digalaki also participated in subsequent research projects in Integrable Probability and complexity theory. Throughout, she has impressed her mentors who refer to her as “one of the most talented undergraduates I have ever met” and “incredibly focused and persistent.”