Press Release

Breakthrough Prize Foundation Announces Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize for Women Mathematicians

By SpaceRef Editor
November 4, 2019
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The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the creation of the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize, to be awarded to outstanding women in the field of mathematics. Each year, the $50,000 award will be presented to early-career, women mathematicians who have completed their PhDs within the past two years. The prize may be shared by two or more individuals.


Famed Iranian mathematician, Fields Medalist and Stanford professor Maryam Mirzakhani, tragically passed away in 2017 at the age of 40 after fighting breast cancer for several years. During her exceptionally prolific career, she made groundbreaking contributions to the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces.


“We hope that the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize will help inspire young women to pursue their calling for mathematics,” said Richard Taylor, Chair, Selection Committee for the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. “Recognizing some of the many aspiring women in mathematics is a fitting tribute to the beautiful intellect of Dr. Mirzakhani.”


Currently, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation awards the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics annually, as well as three $100,000 New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes for researchers in the first decade of their professional careers.


In early September, it was announced that the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics would be awarded to Dr. Mirzakhani’s longtime research partner, Alex Eskin, professor, University of Chicago, for their revolutionary discoveries into the dynamics on moduli spaces, including the proof of the “magic wand theorem.”  

Their seminal work, published in 2013, led to many important consequences in mathematics, including the solution of the “Illumination Problem”. This concerns the question of whether a single beam of light from a point source within a mirrored room will eventually illuminate every point in that room, or whether some points would remain forever dark. Eskin and Mirzakhani’s work in multidimensional abstract surfaces enabled the result that, for polygonal rooms with angles which are fractions of whole numbers, only a finite number of points would remain unlit. 


The new prize was announced at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony on Sunday, November 3, 2019. Detailed rules and the opening of nominations to be announced. 


For more information for Prize eligibility and nominations process, please see

SpaceRef staff editor.