In 1990, the Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) 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.
Catherine O'Neil, a junior at the University of California at Berkeley and Dana Pascovici, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, are co-winners of the fourth annual Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize.
Melissa Aczon, a senior at Harvey Mudd College, and Susan W. Goldstine, a senior at Amherst College, were declared runners-up. Four honorable mentions were awarded to Karin Dorman, Indiana University; Rebecca Field, Bowdoin College; Laura Glenn, University of Wisconsin; and Jennifer Slimowitz, Duke University.
Catherine O'Neil's serious interest in mathematics began in her first year of high school when she received the highest freshman score in a statewide mathematics competition. She attended the summer mathematics program at Hampshire College her freshman and sophomore years in high school. During her junior year of high school, O'Neil began taking courses in mathematics at MIT where she performed at the level of their best undergraduates. At Berkeley she has excelled in both undergraduate and graduate courses. In his letter nominating her for the prize Kenneth Ribet said, "Cathy O'Neil is one of the most promising undergraduate students with whom I have ever been associated." She attended the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Minnesota, Duluth in the summer of 1992, a program that can claim two previous Schafer Prize winners as alumnae, and her resulting paper in graph theory has been submitted for publication. During the fall semester of 1992 O'Neil participated in the "Budapest Semesters in Mathematics" program. In addition to her mathematical talent, all of O'Neil's supporting letters stressed her determination, independence, and leadership.
This year has been an exciting one for Dana Pascovici. She finished 16th out of 2421 participants in this year's Putnam Examination, a national mathematics competition for undergraduates, leading a strong Dartmouth team which finished tenth overall. For her performance as the top scoring woman to take the exam, Pascovici was also awarded the first annual Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize. Pascovici came to Dartmouth last year from Romania. She won Dartmouth's Thayer Prize as a freshman, with a score on the exam which was more than double her nearest competitor's. In addition to her success at mathematical competitions, Pascovici has "taken the Dartmouth mathematics department by storm". Her work in both undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics and computer science has been outstanding. Thomas Shemanske, in his nomination letter, said, "Dana has a truly remarkable mathematical talent.... Dana is the strongest undergraduate mathematician Dart-mouth has seen in many years."
Melissa Aczon has been awarded the Giovanni Prize in Mathematics this year by the mathematics department at Harvey Mudd College, an honor given to their most outstanding senior mathematics major. Her faculty advisor writes, "She is a very promising young mathematician who has great enthusiasm for the subject and who has the potential to make substantial original contributions." Aczon, who plans to start graduate work for a Ph.D. in applied mathematics next year, already has considerable experience in research. She has participated in a summer research program at Harvey Mudd, as well as in an REU at the University of Tennessee, resulting in two research papers.
Susan W. Goldstine studied abstract algebra at Penn State even before entering college. She won first prize in Amherst College's Walker prize examination (for first and second year students) in both her freshmen and sophomore years. Now a senior, Goldstein is described in the letter of nomination as "one of the three strongest mathematics students here in the past 27 years." In the summer of 1992 she participated in an REU program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where she produced a substantial piece of research. For her senior thesis, Goldstein is working on a research project in arithmetical algebraic geometry. This fall, she will continue her studies at Harvard.
Karin Dorman is a mathematics and biology major at Indiana University. As a Goldwater Scholar, she has been working this year on a project in genetics "which combines her skills in mathematics, chemistry, and biology." She is described by a faculty member as being "one of the best students during the past 34 years."
While still in high school, Rebecca Field, a junior at Bowdoin College, presented a paper co-authored with her father, David, a research mathematician at General Motors, at a regional meeting of the MAA. She has participated in several special programs in mathematics: the Mills College Summer Program in 1991, an REU at Mt. Holyoke College under the direction of Margaret Robinson, as well as the Budapest Semester in Mathematics this fall.
Laura Ann Glenn, a senior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has completed a demanding program there that includes graduate courses. Her Hilldale Faculty-Undergraduate Research Award from the university enabled her to work, under the direction of Alexander Nagel, on the calculation of the multiplication tables for a class of free nilpotent Lie groups, with applications to problems in several complex variables.
Jennifer Slimowitz is a senior at Duke University. In addition to taking a demanding program of courses at Duke, she spent the summer of 1991 as a counselor at a "math camp" for gifted high school students at Boston University. Her participation in an REU at Rockefeller University during the summer of 1992 began with research in population genetics and finished with number theory. It resulted in a joint paper with Joel Cohen on the distribution of fractional parts of integer multiples of a real number.