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.
Zoë Batterman, 2024 AWM Schafer Prize Winner
Zoë Batterman is a mathematics major at Pomona College. She has participated in two summer research experiences. In Summer 2022, she participated in the PRiME REU at Pomona College. Her mentor praised her knowledge and ability to ask questions and write up rigorous proofs of her conjectures. In Summer 2023, she participated in the SMALL REU at Williams College. She was a key contributor to 3 research projects, which led to four preprints with two more papers in preparation. Her mentor complimented the quality of her work, which has attracted the attention of experts in the area. In addition to these summer projects, Zoë has sought out research experiences during the academic year and has a paper in preparation with faculty at Pomona College. Zoë has received multiple scholarships and awards and received Honourable Mention for Outstanding Poster at MAA MathFest and won an Award for Outstanding Poster, MAA SoCal-Nevada Section. She has been named a Goldwater Scholar and a Pomona College Scholar.
Zoë’s mentors are very enthusiastic about her potential and skills in mathematics. Beyond her ability to produce excellent research, they spoke highly of her presentation skills and aptitude for learning mathematics at a graduate level.
Response from Batterman
It is an honor to be selected for the Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize. I am grateful to those who continue to recognize and encourage young women in mathematics through this award.
I would like to thank the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Pomona College; in particular, I would like to thank Professor Shahriar Shahriari, for exposing me to proof-based mathematics through 1-2-1 Math at Pomona College, a program I participated in the summer before my first year of college. I am also grateful to Professor Konrad Aguilar for taking me under his wing and for giving me my first research project. Under his guidance, I saw the excitement and creativity of conducting research. I would also like to thank Stephan R. Garcia for supporting me to present my work at conferences.
I am also grateful for the opportunity to conduct research at REUs. I would like to thank my nominator Professor Edray H. Goins for putting the utmost care into fostering a diverse community through the Pomona Research in Mathematics Experience (PRiME). I cannot express my gratitude in words for his phenomenal attention to detail in mentoring, training, and advising me in all aspects of my mathematics career. I thank Professors Renee Bell and Alex Barrios for their warm and generous conversations and mentorship. I am deeply grateful to SMALL which made my research experience fun and rewarding. In particular, I thank Professor Steven J. Miller of Williams College who gave me the freedom to grow as a researcher. The immense dedication he has for giving opportunities to his students impresses me beyond words.
And most importantly, I thank my parents, Dr. Michael Batterman and Dr. Veronique Day, for their unwavering love and support.
(Arianna) Meenakshi McNamara, 2024 AWM Schafer Prize Winner
Arianna Meenakshi McNamara is a mathematics and physics major (with honors in both) at Purdue University. She has carried out research in graph theory at Purdue and has participated in REUs in topology and discrete math at Carnegie Mellon University and in mathematical physics at Louisiana State University. Meenakshi is interested in a variety of mathematical research topics including quantum graphs, operator algebras, and topology. Her research work led to two papers that are already published and several in-prep works. Her work was described as strong and independent by all of her mentors, and she received numerous awards for her scholarship, including a Goldwater Scholarship, an Astronaut Scholarship, and a National Merit Scholarship. She has also presented her research at various national conferences and seminars.
Meenakshi has also excelled in undergraduate honors courses as well as graduate core and advanced topics courses in mathematics and physics, on topics such as analytic number theory and category theory. Her mentors praised her curiosity and maturity in mathematical research and some mentioned that working with her broadened their own research goals. In addition, Meenakshi has made significant contributions to the mathematical community, through leadership roles in her AWM and Women in Physics chapters, and through starting a mentoring program as president of the Purdue Math Club.
Response from McNamara
I am extremely honored to have been selected as a recipient of this prize, and I would like to thank the AWM for their support and for their work to support all women in mathematics.
The support and encouragement that I have found at Purdue has played a huge role in shaping me into the person I am today, and would like to thank all of the mentors who have supported me. I am especially grateful to Professor Rolando de Santiago for introducing me to the world of mathematical research and for believing in me and mentoring me as I have grown as a mathematician. He has been the best possible mentor I could have asked for and I would not be where I am today without him. I would also like to thank Professors Caviglia, Fischbach and Jung in the math and physics departments as well as the entire operator algebras group at Purdue for supporting and mentoring me as I have explored different areas of research.
I am also extremely grateful to Professor Florian Frick at Carnegie Mellon University for his invaluable mentorship, encouraging me to achieve my potential, and making the CMU REU into a welcoming and supportive community. This REU showed me how incredible collaborating on math research can be, and I am also thankful to my other mentors and collaborators at CMU who are all brilliant and made the experience so amazing. Additionally, I am deeply thankful to Professor Parampreet Singh at Louisianna State University for supporting my growth in mathematics through physics, and for further encouraging me to go for my dreams.
Further, I would like to thank Professor Csaba Biro at the University of Louisville and Dr. Scott Bagley for supporting my early sparks of interest in mathematics and encouraging me to double major in math in college.
Finally, I would like to thank my friends and family who have supported and loved me throughout my life, and my partner Cameron who has been there for me through all my ups and downs in college.
Mattie Ji, 2024 AWM Schafer Prize Runner-up
Mattie Ji is a senior at Brown University majoring in Mathematics-Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. She has participated in several REUs where she has displayed her natural aptitude for algebraic geometry and topology. Mattie has an extremely wide knowledge base, allowing her to significantly contribute to several different projects, including an investigation into the relationship between the concepts of Euler characteristic transform (ECT) and smooth ECT, fake projective planes, and the study of a class of conic bundle threefolds.
She has a keen interest in coding complex problems and has a fantastic repository set up on GitHub displaying her work. She is consistently described as an outstanding student with the initiative to develop her knowledge and understanding and has an infectious passion for mathematics, with a remarkable record of co-authored papers and conference presentations.
Response from Ji
First of all, it is a great honor to be recognized as the runner-up for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for promoting underrepresented genders in mathematics.
I am deeply grateful to Professor Nicole Looper, who encouraged me to stay in her modern algebra class and motivated my decision to pursue mathematics. I am also incredibly thankful to Professor Lena Ji, who selected me as her first REU student at the University of Michigan and fostered my interests in algebraic geometry. They are my two biggest role models for women in mathematics.
I am indebted to Professor Lev Borisov, who believed in my potential and ability to do research in fake projective planes at the DIMACS REU while I struggled with personal hardships. I would also like to thank Professor Kun Meng, who introduced me to topological data analysis, gave me immense freedom in research, and had made a profound influence on my current research directions.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Richard Schwartz and Professor Thomas Goodwillie, who have both been amazing mentors to me. Professor Schwartz’s passion in undergraduate advising is only rivaled by his depth of mathematical knowledge. Professor Goodwillie has helped me to overcome my fear of algebraic topology and supervised my exploration of many mathematical topics.
Outside of academics, I want to thank my friends for their warmest support in my worst and best days, especially to everyone who knows what happened.
Finally, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to Cassie Ding for making a profound impact on my mathematical journey, encouraging me to come out, and so much more. I would not be anywhere near where I am today without your support. Thank you.