Stanford mathematicians Maggie Miller and Jinyoung Park have been awarded 2023 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes, given by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. The $50,000 prize is awarded to outstanding early-career women in the field of mathematics. The award is named for Iranian mathematician, Fields Medalist, and Stanford Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, who passed away from breast cancer in 2017.

Maggie Miller (Image credit: Do Pham)

This year, Miller and Park share the prize with Vera Traub from the University of Bonn. They will receive their prize at an upcoming award ceremony.

Miller is a visiting Clay Research Fellow at Stanford and a Stanford Science Fellow. Miller works on geometric topology – the study of properties that are preserved in a shape as it deforms, stretches, or twists – and is interested in understanding surfaces in 4-dimensions.

“I was grateful to be considered for the award and proud to be one of the recipients,” said Miller. “This prize is given to early-career women mathematicians on the merit of their research; I’m so excited to be in this group of women and look forward to seeing more developments in mathematics by women researchers in the future.”

Miller was awarded the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize for “work on fibered ribbon knots and surfaces in 4-dimensional manifolds.” This recognizes Miller’s PhD thesis project from Princeton University, in which she showed how to extend certain geometric structures on 3-dimensional objects, or manifolds, to some types of bounded 4-dimensional manifolds. This can be a simpler way of getting information about 4-dimensional manifolds because their 3-dimensional counterparts tend to be easier to work with.

Jinyoung Park (Image credit: Courtesy Jinyoung Park)

Park is the Szegö Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Her research interests fall within the field of discrete mathematics, which covers mathematical structures that are distinct and separable, and often countable. Park’s specific interests are extremal and probabilistic combinatorics, asymptotic enumeration, and graph theory.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this prize, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of my collaborators,” said Park. “I’m particularly grateful to my academic advisor Jeff Kahn, and my postdoc mentors Jacob Fox and Avi Wigderson for their guidance and support. I also would like to thank my husband and daughter for their love and support.”

Park was awarded Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize for “contributions to the resolution of several major conjectures on thresholds and selector processes.” Those problems concern determining the precise point where a phase transition – an abrupt change in physical properties – happens, and apply to a large variety of systems. For example, water’s structure changes drastically at the point when it reaches 0 degrees.

In addition to the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize, the Breakthrough 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. The Breakthrough Prizes also recognize researchers in physics and life sciences. Emmanuel Mignot, the Craig Reynolds Professor of Sleep Medicine in the Stanford School of Medicine won this year’s Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for discovering the cause of narcolepsy.