Eighth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize

posted Jul 9, 2010, 5:59 PM by Glenna Buford

January 1998, Baltimore MD

In 1990, the Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics established the annual Alice T. Schafer Prize for excellence in mathematics by an undergraduate woman. The prize is named for former AWM president and one of its founding members, Alice T. Schafer (Professor Emerita from Wellesley College), who has contributed a great deal to women in mathematics throughout her career. The criteria for selection includes, but is not limited to, the quality of the nominees' performance in mathematics courses, and special programs, an exhibition of real interest in mathematics, the ability to do independent work, and if applicable, performance in mathematical competitions.


Schafer Prize Co-Winner

SHARON ANN LOZANO is a senior mathematics major whose outstanding academic record at the University of Texas places her in the top one percent of over five hundred mathematics majors. According to her professors, Sharon has been the top student in most of her mathematics courses. In her first year, she tied for first place in the Mathematics Department's A.E. Bennett Examination, a contest that has been in existence for over fifty years, and whose winners include many who subsequently distinguished themselves in mathematics and engineering.

Sharon has participated in two summer research programs, the Cornell SACNAS Summer Institute arid the Mills Summer Institute. She has written three research reports, one of which provided the background for her senior honors thesis involving numerical modeling of surface water flow under the direction of Professor Mary Wheeler. In the Spring of 1997, Lozano was a member of her department's team which received an Honorable Mention in the COMAP Mathematics Contest in Modeling. Sharon has also served her department and community in many ways, particularly through her involvement in the AmeriCorps Program.

In the words of one of her professors, “Sharon is an extraordinary individual and brings to mathematics an excitement arid vitality that enlivens the possibilities for the future of the profession…Sharon, while still an undergraduate, has shaped a mathematical life that merges research with community service and leadership. While pursuing an active mathematical research agenda, Sharon has also blazed a pathway of community service that invites more students from diverse backgrounds to participate in and appreciate mathematics.”

Response from Lozano

There are many talented undergraduate women in mathematics. It is an honor to be considered among them and to have been awarded the Alice T. Schafer Prize this year. I thank the people and organizations, such as AWM, that do more than share their knowledge. They genuinely believe in and inspire the success of all students. In particular. I would like to thank Efraim Armendariz, Mary Wheeler, Uri Treisman. James Epperson, Monica Martinez, and Jackie McCaffery for inspiring me.


Schafer Prize Co-Winner

JESSICA A. SHEPHERD is a senior mathematics major with a minor in computer science at the University of Utah. Her professors are uniform in their praise of her extraordinary mathematical talent; many feel that she is the strongest mathematics student they have seen at Utah in decades, and is in fact on par with their strongest graduate students. She has received many prizes and awards, including the Gibson Award for outstanding achievement in mathematics, and has done research in both mathematics and computer science.

In 1995, Jessica participated in research in the PipeLink Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and in 1996, she participated in the SIMS program at the University of California, Berkeley. She has co-authored two papers, “The Multiplier in Fractals Bounded by Regular Polygons” written with Professor Anne Roberts and “A Corpus-Based Approach for Building Semantic Lexicons” with Professor Ellen Riloff.

One of her professors states, “Jessica has a superb intellect and tremendous drive and discipline. She has the potential to become an intellectual leader.” According to another, “She is an absolute joy as a student and I am sure that she will go on to have a fine career. She is outstanding by any standard whatsoever…” Finally, “Jessica is the brightest undergraduate I have ever met. Jessica has a combination of raw intellectual power, self-discipline, motivation, and character that is extraordinarily rare. I fully expect to run across her name again some day, perhaps as a professor at a prestigious university or as the winner of a major award.”

Response from Shepherd

I feel extremely honored to have been selected for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would like to respond by thanking all the teachers and professors in my life who have taken the time to make mathematics not just possible, but exciting. This award belongs more to them than to me. Thanks especially to Anne Roberts and Ellen Riloff for offering advice and opening doors, both literally and figuratively. Finally, thanks to the AWM and all those who believe in the capabilities of women enough to provide encouragement that helps them excel.


Schafer Prize Runner-up

JIE LI is a senior at the University of Michigan with a dual concentration in Mathematics and Political Science. Jie has done exceptionally well in a challenging mathematics program. She began her involvement in research at an exceptionally early stage in her career, and has participated in three summer research programs, at Michigan, at Williams College, and at Cornell University. As a rising sophomore, she answered a question about the minima of polynomials of several variables posed by Professor A. Blass. This work was deemed “a fine accomplishment for a senior. To have done it after her first year is a sign of extraordinary ability and drive.” Li's paper on “Stick Knots" with Professor Colin Adams will be submitted for publication. According to her professors, “We all expect a great future for Jie and think that she richly deserves national recognition for her accomplishments.”

Response from Li

In making the connection with the individual student, math needs to overcome popular conceptions of being a difficult and esoteric subject. Hence, teachers are so important in guiding the student during the initial stages of learning. I would like to express my appreciation to my professors at The University of Michigan for their patience, kindness, and, more importantly, for a glimpse of their energy and passion for the subject.


Schafer Prize Honorable Mention

PATIENCE ELIZABETH MORENO is a senior mathematics major at Carnegie Mellon University. She has excelled in her mathematics courses, and for the past year, has been doing independent research in applied statistics, which her research advisor considers “genuine cutting edge research.” According to one of her professors, “She is by far the most knowledgeable and most capable of the undergraduates I have had close contact with through my research. She has the clear ability to do independent work in mathematics and statistics.” According to another, “Patience is one of the strongest undergraduate students that I have taught at Carnegie Mellon over the last fifteen years.”

Response from Moreno

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for honoring me with an Honorable Mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would also like to thank the professors who have been instrumental in my development as a mathematician, Juan Jorge Schaffer, Victor Mizel, William Hrusa, William Eddy, Stephanie Land, and Russell Walker.


Schafer Prize Honorable Mention

VERA PESHCHANSKY is a senior in a joint program in Mathematics and Computer Science at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. She has won many awards and prizes, including the George Bachman Award presented to an outstanding undergraduate majoring in mathematics, and the Kinsella Humanitarian Award. She is currently involved in the writing of a senior class project which involves both number theory and computer science. Her professors are uniform in their praise of her mathematical talent and motivation. One of Vera's professors states, “Vera is the most talented student, either in the graduate or undergraduate category, that I have seen at Poly in the last ten years. She has all the ingredients to become a really first rate research mathematician.”

Response from Peshchansky

I'd like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for awarding me an Honorable Mention in this year's Alice T. Schafer Prize competition. This is a great honor both for me personally and for my school – Polytechnic University. I would particularly like to thank Professor Lesley Sibner for nominating me.