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 (Carina) Letong Hong, AWM 2022 Schafer Prize Winner

(Carina) Letong Hong is a junior mathematics and physics major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has contributed to REUs at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Virginia in addition to research projects at MIT and the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, leading to three articles accepted for publication and numerous others submitted or in preparation. She has already taken extensive graduate mathematics courses, receiving the highest possible grades in each, and plans to graduate in Spring 2022 after 3 years at MIT.

Hong already has an impressive track record of completed research in many areas, including stack-sorting algorithms, pattern avoidance in inversion sequences, the Monstrous Moonshine Conjecture, L-functions of modular elliptic curves and K3 surfaces, and Markov chains on edge colorings of bipartite graphs; Hong’s research addressed open questions posed by top mathematicians in their respective fields. Her mentors describe her as “headed to be a superstar in mathematical research,” “driven and overflowing with enthusiasm,” and “extraordinarily active on both the research side and the broader community-building side.” Hong recently received the Emerging Leader Award and Community Building Award at MIT, where she is the President of the Undergraduate Mathematics Association and the Advocacy and Outreach Chair of the First Generation and Low Income Students Coalition.

Response from Hong

It is an honor to have been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Alice T. Schafer Prize and I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Association for Women in Mathematics for their efforts in supporting young women mathematicians.

My experience has been shaped by the intellectually challenging and engaging academic environment that the MIT Mathematics Department fosters. I am especially grateful to my nominator and advisor Professor Pavel Etingof for his tremendous kind help. I am thankful to Professor Scott Sheffield and Professor Wei Zhang for their recommendation, teaching, and mentorship. I thank Professor Gigliola Staffilani and Professor David Vogan for important conversations that solidify my intention to be an academic.

I am extremely thankful to Professor Ken Ono for helping me realize my potential. He pushes my growth as a researcher not only at the University of Virginia REU but throughout my undergraduate career. I am deeply grateful to Professor Joseph Gallian for his dedication over years to make the University of Minnesota Duluth REU a warm, belonging, and supportive family; in my utopia I hope to prove many conjectures with this family.

Furthermore I would like to thank Professor Daniel Shapiro at the Ross Mathematics Program, Dr. Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo at the Stanford University Mathematics Camp, and Dr. Istvan Miklos and faculties at the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics for stimulating my early sparks in advanced math.

Finally, I thank my family and especially my mother for their unconditional love.

Citation for Faye Jackson, AWM 2022 Schafer Prize Runner-Up

Faye Jackson is a math major at the University of Michigan. She excels in course work, in research, and in community engagement both within her department and in the broader Ann Arbor and surrounding areas. Her mentors and professors describe her as enthusiastically engaged in the classroom and an eager, insightful learner. Her instructors consistently describe Faye as a top-achieving student, even as an undergraduate in PhD-level courses, and as “dedicated and passionate … a clear-thinking, creative, and effective problem solver.” In addition to research at the Lab of Geometry at Michigan, she participated in the SMALL REU where she worked on research questions on four distinct projects (Zeckendorf decompositions, Discrete Erdos Distance Problems, Random Matrix Theory, and More Sums Than Differences sets) and is now a co-author on six papers. (Three already on the arXiv and three more to come!)

In addition to these exceptionally strong academic accomplishments, Faye has been an essential and incredibly reliable presence in the outreach programs of the University of Michigan Mathematics Department. She has participated in Math Mondays in Ypsi, Super Saturdays, the Michigan Math Circle, and the new Math Corps in Ann Arbor. In class, research, and outreach she makes significant contributions that delight all of her mentors, and they also seriously appreciate her ability to make space for other people to contribute. With middle school and high school students this takes the form of working “well with students of all backgrounds, abilities and interests, and help(s) make sure everyone was heard and had something to work on that fit their strengths”. With her peers this becomes sharing her ideas freely to help spark lively discussion.

Response from Jackson

I want to sincerely thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for selecting me as the runner-up for the Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize. More directly, I want to thank all of my mentors and professors–in particular Stephen DeBacker, Sarah Koch, Steven J. Miller, and Jenny Wilson–who have provided me with so many opportunities for learning new mathematics, research, and contributing to the mathematical community and who have given me so much advice. I also want to thank my co-researchers from the SMALL REU as well as my classmates at the University of Michigan who have been such amazing collaborators and friends. Many of my qualities which were specifically pointed out in the citation do not just come from me as an individual. Instead, they are the result of talented and caring mentors combined with a vibrant and accepting mathematical community at the University of Michigan as well as the SMALL REU. I hope to channel the renewed energy and confidence that winning this award brings me back into my work, into my students, and into my outreach. One of the great lessons that my mentors have taught me is that when you do well you should share that success–both through appropriate thanks and pouring energy into your peers, students, and yes even your mentors. My goal is not just to do great things mathematically and in outreach. I am not sure I am equipped to do either alone. However, I can enable those around me to do greater things together than I ever could.

Citation for Alexandra Hoey, AWM 2022 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention

Alexandra Hoey is a math major at MIT. She has participated in the MIT Summer Program in Undergraduate Research and spent two summers at the University of Virginia REU. Her summer research has focused on arithmetic statistics – an active area of research that is closely related to many famous conjectures in number theory. In her first summer she worked on a project on class numbers of imaginary quadratic fields. In the second summer she and collaborators proved a strong theorem about the Sato-Tate conjecture. This work has led to two papers – one of which will appear in Transactions of the American Mathematical Society. This work is of such strong interest that it served as an introduction to a current mentor who first encountered her through one her arXiv preprints and then learned she was an undergraduate at his own institution.

In addition to her summer research and many challenging math classes, Alexandra has taken four reading courses on advanced topics in number theory and arithmetic geometry. One of these reading courses involved a computational project whose results will be included in the L-functions and modular forms database. Alexandra is also a talented mentor herself and has been engaged in outreach through the MIT PRIMES Circle where she worked with two high school women on a semester-long project. Through this work she helped these students gain serious understanding of a demanding topic, write a beautiful exposition of their topic, learn to give a strong talk, and gain confidence.

Response from Hoey

Thank you to the AWM for supporting women in mathematics. I would like to thank everyone who helped me along my mathematical journey, especially Professor Ken Ono for guiding me through the mathematical research process, and Professors Ju-Lee Kim, Gigliola Staffilani, and Drew Sutherland for their guidance and support. I would also like to thank the PROMYS program for inspiring me to pursue math. Finally, thank you to my friends and family who have supported me every step of the way.

Citation for Simran Khunger, AWM 2022 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention

Simran Khunger is a senior mathematics major at Carnegie Mellon University. She has contributed to REUs at Williams College and Oregon State University and held a research apprenticeship studying Algebraic Topology; these have resulted in one published article, one submitted article, and another in preparation, as well as an impressive number of presentations and posters.

Khunger has excelled in her coursework, completing numerous graduate-level courses in mathematics, the Arizona Winter School, and the Connecticut Summer School in Number Theory. One mentor predicts that she will “greatly contribute wherever she is, and help foster an environment where others are involved as well.’’ Others describe how, in many research groups, Khunger took charge and made sure that everyone had a problem that they could make progress on and were invested in. She then showed an impressive ability to convert this work into written results.

With her ability to quickly dive into technical material, to convert ideas into usable results, and her infectious enthusiasm, Khunger is expected to excel in all areas of the mathematics profession.

Response from Khunger

I am honored to be recognized by the AWM for the Alice Schafer Prize’s Honorable Mention. I am deeply grateful to Professor Holly Swisher for her undying support, encouragement, and mentorship in our research; to Professor Steven J. Miller for nurturing and furthering my pursuit of number theory through a wonderful project on L-functions; and to Professor Florian Frick for enthusiastically supporting me through my varied interests as I grew mathematically in my undergraduate career. I also thank my friends, namely Trajan Hammonds for his perpetual guidance and Vanessa Jiang for endlessly believing in me, the Canada/USA Mathcamp community for sustaining my love of math, and especially my mom, who was the one who started it all. Finally, thank you to the Carnegie Mellon math department, where I have grown tremendously in the last four years, as well as my friends and family.

Citation for Lily (Qiao) Li, AWM 2022 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention

Lily (Qiao) Li is a mathematics and computer science major at UC Berkeley.  She has participated in two summer REUs at Georgia Tech. Her research work from the first summer was on totally symmetric sets in groups and led to two papers, already accepted at Geometriae Dedicata and Involve. Based on work done in the second summer REU, she is currently working with one other student on a completely different topic in complex dynamics; their work was described by one of her mentors as “good enough to earn a Ph.D. thesis” at a research university. In addition, Lily was part of the knot theory research group at the SMALL REU at Williams College. There, her research led to an impressive three papers on hyperbolic knot complements, two of which have been submitted for publication. Lily’s research work has thus touched on a great breadth of advanced mathematical topics.

Lily has also taken several graduate courses on topology, algebraic topology and Lie groups, and has taken reading courses on advanced mathematical topics almost every semester. Many of her mentors stressed how, in both research and coursework, she “helped to create a particularly collaborative environment which substantially furthered the research”. Lily has also been very engaged with the mathematical community, by organizing events for incoming students interested in the math major and serving as president of the math undergraduate student association. She also oversees an undergraduate lecture series in her department and has co-founded the Berkeley Integration Bee.

Response from Li

Thank you to the AWM for the amazing work supporting women in math. I’m thankful for Prof. Dan Margalit and his generous mentorship throughout my undergraduate career. I’m grateful for Prof. Colin Adams, whose infectious enthusiasm made Zoom SMALL a wonderful experience. I’m also indebted to Prof. Ian Agol, Prof. David Nadler, Prof. Alexander Paulin, and Prof. Dmitry Vaintrob at Berkeley for their instruction and advice, as well as to my classmates and research collaborators, especially Caleb Partin, for their constant encouragement. Thank you to Mr. Patrick Rybarczyk, Mr. Marcus Neal, and Mr. Yue Zheng, who first introduced me to mathematics as a joyful endeavor. Finally, I’m thankful for my family and their steadfast support.