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The Gender Gap in Math and Math Prize for Girls

There is a huge gender gap in high school mathematics, according to a recent paper by Professor Glenn Ellison, “Dynamics of the Gender Gap in High Math Achievement.” Of the top 5,000 9th graders participating in the American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) from 1999 to 2007, just 30 percent were girls. By senior year, the number drops to 22 percent. High-achieving female math students were so discouraged they either dropped out of math contests, or saw their scores droop by their senior year.

In an attempt to address this trend, Ravi Boppana ’86, a research affiliate with the Department of Mathematics, helped launch the Advantage Testing Foundation Math Prize for Girls, which marked its 10th anniversary with a record 285 middle and high school female students from the United States and Canada arriving at MIT to compete for $60,000 in cash prizes.

"Girls perform as well as or better than boys in math classes in grade school, but there is an alarming drop-off in the number of young women who study math in college and pursue math-related careers,” Boppana said. “We created the Math Prize for Girls to help debunk gender stereotypes, and to support young women who see higher-level mathematics as a pursuit that is challenging, fun, and incredibly rewarding."

For more on this topic read the article in the MIT News, “Math Prize for Girls competition helps to close the gender gap in mathematics” featuring Michael Sipser, dean of the MIT School of Science and the Donner Professor of Mathematics; Department of Mathematics Head Michel Goemans; Ioana Dumitriu, ’03, a math professor at the University of Washington; and a list of programs designed to prepare students, including women, with supplemental education opportunities.

Gigliola Staffilani Receives MIT's Earll M. Murman Award

Gigliola Staffilani

Gigliola Staffilani is this year’s recipient of the Earll M. Murman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.

The award is "presented to a faculty member who has served as an excellent advisor and mentor for undergraduates and who has had a significant impact on their personal lives and academic success."

The award was presented at the 2018 Awards Convocation Thursday, May 10 in the Samberg Center.

Congratulations Gigliola!

2018 Women in Math Conference

Group photo from women in mathconference

Members of the MIT math community were among those attending a Women in Math conference at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst March 2-4, 2018. Gigliola organized this event with her colleague Andrea Nahmod from UMass, as part of a Focused Research Group Grant from the NSF. For the grant, Gigliola worked with Andrea Nahmod along with colleagues from the University of Chicago and Princeton University.

Notices of the AMS - Women's History Month

AMS cover

Please check out the March edition of Notices of the AMS, which features many women mathematicians with a current or past MIT affiliation, including Math Professor Gigliola Staffilani, Lauren Williams, Christine Taylor, Karen E. Smith, Eva Tardos, Chelsea Walton, and Tara S. Holm.

Giulia Saccà Receives Molteni Award

Giulia Saccà with other Molteni Award winners

Assistant Professor Giulia Saccà received the Anna Maria Molteni Award in Mathematics and Physics for her research on hyper-Kähler geometries. She was among five young Italian researchers working in North America who received 2017 ISSNAF Awards on November 8 at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

In 2016 Saccà constructed a hyper-Kähler compactification of the intermediate Jacobian fibration associated to a general cubic fourfold, proving a conjecture of Donagi-Markman from 1994. In 2017, Saccà studied degenerations of hyper-Kähler manifolds, generalizing work on K3 surfaces of Kulivov and Pinkham-Persson. In the field of Riemann surfaces, Saccà has worked toward giving the first explicit equations for a “general” curve, thereby answering an open question of Harris-Morrison from 1998.

Giulia received her BS and MA from La Sapienza in Rome and her PhD from Princeton in 2013. Before moving to MIT, she was a J.H. Simons Instructor at Stony Brook University and in 2014-2015 a member of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her thesis won the 2014 Federigo Enriques Prize from the Unione Matematica Italiana.

Each year, the ISSNAF (Italian Scientists and Scholars of North America Foundation) acknowledges young Italian researchers by presenting the ISSNAF Awards for Young Investigators in five subjects and awarding the winner in each category with a $3,000 prize. Congratulations Giulia!

Hilary Finucane Receives NIH Award

Hilary Finucane

Broad Institute Fellow Hilary Finucane PhD ’17 received the Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. The award recognizes “exceptional junior scientists” with an opportunity to skip traditional postdoctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions. Her award was one of 86 grants given to scientists as part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) program. Hilary develops computational methods for analyzing biological data. She plans to develop methods to analyze large-scale genomic data to identify disease-relevant cell types and tissues, a necessary first step for understanding molecular mechanisms of disease. In June 2017, she completed her PhD in applied math; her research was in statistical genetics, and she was advised by Alkes Price.

Hilary also recently contributed to “Association analysis identifies 65 new breast cancer risk loci” in Advance Online Publication (AOP) on www.nature.com.

2017 Math Prize for Girls Awarded

Math Prize for Girls Participants

Congratulations to the winners of the 9th annual Math Prize for Girls contest, which MIT hosted on Saturday, September 24, 2017. Gigliola Staffilani and School of Science Dean Michael Sipser are among the board of advisors for this event, which is held by Advantage Testing Foundation.

The event welcomed 266 girls from across the US and Canada who competed for $55,000 in cash prizes. Sharing first prize were Catherine (Katie) Wu (an 11th grader from California), Megan Joshi (a 12th grader from California), and Claire Zhou (an 11th grader from Texas).

At the event, Michel Goemans encouraged the girls to continue their passion for math, and hoped that they would help to right the current gender imbalance in the mathematics field. He noted that at MIT, about a third of math majors are women, many of whom had competed in past Math Prize for Girls competitions. “As you know, mathematics is so beautiful,” he said. “Finding the right approach to solve a challenging problem that initially seems so impossible and hard to crack brings such joy and satisfaction.”

Dr. Angela Belcher, a Professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science at MIT, delivered the keynote lecture at the 2017 awards ceremony.

IAS 2017 Program for Women in Mathematics

The IAS is hosting a program for Women in Mathematics, Geometry and Randomness in Group Theory, from May 15-26, 2017.
Application Now Open: https://www.math.ias.edu/wam/2017/application

Additionally, participants are invited to apply for several summer internship positions: https://www.math.ias.edu/wam/2017/internships

Danielle Wang wins the 2015 Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize.

MIT student Danielle Wang has won the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize. Established in 1992, this prize is "awarded periodically to a woman whose performance on the Competition has been deemed particularly meritorious."