New Stanford graduate fellowship named for Maryam Mirzakhani

The School of Humanities and Sciences has received an $800,000 gift from engineers and entrepreneurs ROUZBEH YASSINI-FARD and ANOUSHEH ANSARI to establish a graduate fellowship in memory of mathematics Professor MARYAM MIRZAKHANI.

Maryam Mirzakhani
Maryam Mirzakhani

A specialist in theoretical mathematics, Mirzakhani was the first and to-date only female winner of the Fields Medal – considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics. She died of breast cancer in July at the age of 40.

The Maryam Mirzakhani Graduate Fellowship will support graduate students in the Department of Mathematics. Ansari and Yassini’s commitment will earn $400,000 in matching funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to create a $1.2 million endowed fund.

As fellow Iranian-Americans, Yassini and Ansari said that Mirzakhani was an inspiration to them and an embodiment of the contributions that the Iranian community has made globally throughout history across the humanities, arts and sciences. Mirzakhani was born in Tehran and studied at Sharif University before attending Harvard for her graduate studies.

“Maryam’s contributions to mathematics are as significant as those of Khwarizmi’s groundbreaking innovations as the father of algebra more than 12 centuries ago,” Yassini said. “Anousheh and I are creating this fellowship to illuminate her extraordinary contribution to this arc of history.”

The Maryam Mirzakhani Graduate Fellowship will help attract and support the next generation of leaders in mathematics. The unpredictability of government funding in the natural sciences makes these fellowships more important than ever, said ELENY IONEL, professor and chair of mathematics.

“Graduate students are the future,” she said. “It’s really essential to have fellowships like this to bring talented students to Stanford to follow their dreams and passions.”

Yassini is internationally known as the “father of the cable modem” for his pioneering work inventing internet connectivity via cable TV, forever changing the broadband industry. Ansari is the co-founder and CEO of Prodea, a leading IoT (internet of things) service delivery platform, and is both the first Iranian individual and the first self-funded woman to travel to space.

“Anousheh and I established this fellowship because we didn’t want Maryam’s passing away so young to mean that she – and her legacy – would go away,” said Yassini. “I’m hoping this fellowship motivates many young people, especially other female mathematicians, to pursue the field and to carry out innovative research – and that people are inspired to be as humble and as globally impactful as Maryam was.”