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.
Faye Jackson, AWM 2023 Schafer Prize Winner
Faye Jackson is a math major at the University of Michigan. She has made impressive contributions in research, course work and engagement with her community. In Summer 2021 she participated in the SMALL REU at Williams College and played a major role in four different research projects. This work led to one published paper, one accepted paper, three submitted preprints and two papers in preparation. Her mentor praises her creativity, generosity and the clarity of her exposition. In Summer 2022 she participated in the REU at the University of Virginia and co-authored two submitted papers. Her mentor praised the beauty of her work and her impressive contributions to the life of the community.
Faye’s instructors are similarly enthusiastic about her abilities and enthusiasm, and they describe her as a delight to have in class who helps spark important discussions. They are particularly excited about her contributions to outreach, and they describe her as a talented teacher for the Math Mondays in Ypsi, Super Saturday and Math Corps programs.
Response from Jackson
First of all, it is a great honor to have been selected for the Alice T. Schafer Prize and I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for sponsoring this award and for supporting women mathematicians.
The mathematical community at the University of Michigan has influenced my understanding of mathematics as well as what it means to be a mathematician more deeply than I can express with words. The vibrancy, inclusivity, and collaborative spirit which characterizes the community there has made my past four years incredible. This is in no small part due to a few key professors. I am quite blessed to know Professors Sarah Koch and Stephen DeBacker, who have molded that community by pouring their souls into it. Their passion for teaching and outreach is constantly inspiring. They have also been incredible mentors to me in both my finest and my worst moments. I would not be where I am without them. Sarah Koch’s dynamism in particular sparks my excitement for mathematics whenever I am around her, and Stephen DeBacker provides me with the space and the resources to pursue whatever idea I have towards improving the department community. I would also like to thank Professor Jenny Wilson, who fostered my love of algebraic topology during an especially difficult academic year over Zoom. Her clear teaching style and love for the subject was not hampered in the slightest by these conditions.
I am deeply grateful for Professor Steven J. Miller, who has been a key mentor for me since I attended the SMALL REU in 2021. He is so deeply dedicated to his students that it astounds me, and he has pushed me to show the same dedication to my students and also to my work. As I constantly tell him, his advice is invaluable. Furthermore, the REU showed me how incredible mathematical research can be, and I would like to thank the entire cohort of the SMALL 2021 REU. I would also like to thank Professor Ken Ono for showing me the beauty of number theory. Through the University of Virginia REU I grew immensely as a researcher, and developed an appreciation for a field of mathematics which had previously been foreign to me. I would like to thank my cohort at the Virginia REU as well. I would specifically like to thank my coauthor Misheel Otgonbayar, whose brilliance and kindness continually astounded me throughout the program, and who made me laugh more times than I could count. I would also like to thank my roommate Catherine Cossaboom, who provided me with invaluable support whenever I was at my wit’s end with my research or when I was struggling personally.
Finally, I would like to thank my family for their love and support throughout my college career. Specifically, my mother’s sense of service has extended to my passion for outreach, and I would not be who I am without her. Likewise, my father’s dedication to his work and to other people always astounds me. I would also like to thank my partner, Cassandra Prokopowicz, for supporting me for the past four years. Whether I am on top of the mountain after conquering a problem or at the bottom of it after falling from the cliffs, she has always been there for me, and that has allowed me to achieve so much.
Anqi Li, AWM 2023 Schafer Prize Runner-Up
Anqi Li is a math major at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has participated in three summer research experiences. The first was the NYC Discrete Math REU at Baruch College, City University of New York. In that summer she wrote a paper that has been accepted by the European Journal of Combinatorics. In Summer 2021 she participated in the MIT Math Summer Program in Undergraduate Research and co authored a paper her mentor describes as remarkable work. This paper was recognized as the top project from the summer program. In Summer 2022, Anqi participated in the REU at the University of Minnesota Duluth leading to three more papers in preparation. In addition to these summer projects, Anqi has sought out research experiences during the academic year and has two current projects with faculty at MIT.
Anqi’s mentors praise her for deeply understanding challenging material, for asking insightful questions and for a willingness to try anything. They describe working with her as like working with an advanced graduate student
Response from Li
It is an honor to be recognized by the Association for Women in Mathematics for the Alice T. Schafer prize. I would like to thank the Association for their support of early career women researchers and their important work in promoting gender representation in mathematics.
I am deeply grateful for the guidance of my mentors, who have shaped me into the student and researcher I am today. I would like to start by thanking Prof. Yufei Zhao for his unwavering guidance throughout my mathematics journey at MIT and his many insights into academia and beyond. I am also sincerely grateful for the opportunity to work under the patient mentorship of Prof. Lisa Sauermann, who has been one of my biggest role models as a woman mathematician. I also draw deep inspiration from the fruitful conversations I have had with my research collaborators and professors, and in particular thank Prof. Dor Minzer for our many intellectually stimulating discussions and his influence on my current research directions.
I also extend my gratitude to the numerous other faculty I have interacted with over the years, including Prof. Henry Cohn and Prof. Davesh Maulik, as well as my postdoc and graduate student collaborators who constantly inspire me to reach greater heights. I am also thankful for opportunities through the CUNY Baruch Combinatorics REU, MIT Summer Program in Undergraduate Research+ (SPUR+) and University of Minnesota Duluth REU, which were instrumental in shaping my research interests in combinatorics. I would especially like to acknowledge Prof. Adam Sheffer for getting me started on my university research journey.
Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my loved ones, whose unconditional support motivates me every day.
Ilani Axelrod-Freed, AWM 2023 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention
Ilani Axelrod-Freed is a mathematics major at MIT. They have participated in three REUs in Duluth, Minnesota Twin Cities, and New York Discrete Math. The topics of their research projects span combinatorics and discrete geometry. They have an impressive single-author publication stemming from one of these REUs and published in Enumerative Combinatorics and applications, and another joint paper with a mentor accepted in Discrete & Computational Geometry. In one of these REUs, Ilani worked on three different research projects and impressed their mentors with their ability to balance their time between them.
Ilani is also praised as a very active contributor to collaborative meetings, including online ones during the pandemic. Their mentors praised their oral and written mathematical communication skills as demonstrated by their presentations during the REUs as well as their strong coursework.
Response from Axelrod-Freed
I would like to thank the AWM for supporting underrepresented genders in mathematics. Thanks to Professor Alexander Postnikov for introducing me to mathematics research at MIT, Professor Joseph Gallian for making Duluth the amazing REU and community that it is, Professor Pablo Soberón for his supportive mentorship and collaboration, and thank you to all my incredible mentors at the Twin Cities REU who made me so excited to do math every day. I would like to thank HCSSiM for sustaining my love of math and introducing me to the mathematics community in high school. I would like to thank all my friends who have worked on math problem sets and research with me and who listen patiently to my excited rambles about my latest proofs. Finally, eternal gratitude to my parents for their endless support, particularly to my dad for giving me exciting math problems ever since I was young that always inspire me to keep learning more.
Joye Chen, AWM 2023 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention
Joye Chen is a senior mathematics major at Princeton University. She participated in the SMALL REU during the summer of 2022 where she worked on hyperbolic knot theory and co-authored three publications (two already on ArXiv and one in preparation). Joye contributed significantly in proving several key results on hyperbolic knotoids and generalized knotoids, in particular giving a complete classification of hyperbolic alternating links in thickened surfaces-with-boundary. Her instructors are impressed by her dedication to conveying these ideas through developing a deep understanding of the material.
As well as conducting research during her time at the SMALL REU, Joye has excelled in becoming familiar with modern topics in topology and has taken several graduate courses, including ones on algebraic topology and Knot Floer and Khovanov homologies. In previous summers, she also worked on reading courses in representation theory, Lie algebras, and grid homology. She is consistently described as working at a graduate student level with impressive initiative to develop her own knowledge and understanding. In addition, Joye previously served as the advising co-chair of the Princeton Math Club and currently serves as a Peer Math Advisor.
Response from Chen
It’s an honor to be selected as a Schafer Prize Honorable Mention. I am deeply indebted to the many, many people who inspired me and supported me along my mathematical development. In particular, I want to thank Prof. Colin Adams for his mentorship and enthusiasm for hyperbolic 3-manifolds, as well as my collaborators at SMALL for many insightful conversations. I’m also immensely grateful to Prof. David Gabai, Prof. Ian Zemke, and Prof. Ozsváth for their invaluable guidance and encouragement, and to my peers at Princeton for their constant support and presence in the Fine Common Room. Many thanks to the PROMYS program and to my UIL teachers, Mr. John Biros and Ms. Dawn Geshwender, for getting me started. And lastly, thank you to my family for their unconditional love.
Veronica Lang, AWM 2023 Schafer Prize Honorable Mention
Veronica Lang is a mathematics major at Smith College. She has participated in an REU program at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and has engaged in research at Smith College as well. Veronica is interested in a variety of mathematical research topics spanning algebra, combinatorics, and topology. Her research work led to two papers that are in preparation for submission, with potential follow-up results. Her work was described as independent by all of her mentors, and comparable to the level of graduate students and even postdocs.
Veronica has also excelled in advanced courses in different topics and pursued graduate-level coursework through final projects and independent study. Her mentors praised her creativity in research as well as her oral and written mathematical communication skills. She is described as “more of a colleague than a student” by her mentors, and is particularly recognized for being able to work with people from diverse backgrounds and form effective teams.
Response from Lang
Thank you to the AWM for celebrating women in math and to the professors and students who make the Smith math and physics communities so supportive. I am particularly indebted to Professor Julianna Tymoczko for introducing me to math research, and to Professors Pau Atela, Patricia Cahn and Christophe Golé for their wonderful advice and teaching. I also want to thank the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities REU for an amazing summer research experience. I am especially grateful to my mentors Sarah Brauner and Claire Frechette, TAs Patty Commins and Carolyn Stephen, and student collaborators Ilani Axelrod-Freed and Judy Chiang for being spectacular mathematicians and human beings to work with. Finally, I would like to thank my family and non-mathematician friends for their support and for acting impressed when I say the word “eigenvector.”