Even at the age of 8, Maryam Mirzakhani was remarkable and used to tell herself stories about a remarkable girl who would fulfil a grand destiny, but her career has proved to be an equally incredible journey. The first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal which is regarded as the equivalent as the Nobel Prize for maths. Most newspapers in Tehran put a photo of her on their front cover to mark their respects with officials allowing editors to ignore the strict dress code for female pictures.

She worked at Stanford University where she specialised in the geometry and dynamics of complex curved surfaces.

She was a professor since 2008 and worked on moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry.

Uniquely brilliant

As a child of just 8 years old, she used to tell herself stories about a girl who would achieve remarkable ambitions such as becoming mayor or travelling the world. She used to continue with those stories in her mind even though the characters had changed and she even said that researching mathematics is like writing novel, further highlighting her creative brilliance. “There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better,” she said. “Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it’s completely different from your first impression.”

Fellow professors have applauded her imagination with Caroline Series, a professor at Warwick University, who shared Mirzakhani’s research interest saying, “Using her extraordinary mathematical imagination, she could pull out all sorts of astonishing results.” Born to middle-class family in Iran, Mirzakhani first came to public prominence when she became the first girl to compete for Iran at the International Mathematical Olympiad, winning gold medals in Honk Kong in 1994 and gaining a perfect score in Toronto, 1995.

She graduated Iran’s top scientific university, Sharif University, in 1999 and travelled to the US to undertake postgraduate study, gaining her PhD in 2004 from Harvard university.

She had managed to solve two Mathematical Problems within her doctoral thesis and this resulted in three papers being published the three top journals for mathematics.

Her creative brilliance was further highlighted as she thinks about mathematical problems, she doodles and drawing images that relate to her research. Her home office has books strewn all over the place and she would spend hours drawing what seemed like the same image over and over. Her husband, Jan Vondrak, who is a theoretical computer scientist, speculated that because her work was so abstract that she couldn’t afford to make logical steps one by one. A brilliant and creative mathematical mind who will be missed within the community and there was no telling what she could’ve further achieved.