Ninth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize

posted Jul 9, 2010, 6:03 PM by Glenna Buford

January 1999, San Antonio TX

In 1990, the Executive Committee of 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 founding member Alice T. Schafer (Professor Emerita from Wellesley College), who has contributed greatly 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.

AWM is pleased to present the Ninth Annual Alice T. Schafer Prize to an outstanding young woman mathematician: Caroline J. Klivans of Cornell University. Additionally, four remarkable young women were given an honorable mention: Laura Ciobanu, Franklin & Marshall College; Catherine S. Grasso, University of Michigan; Amanda Mueller, University of Notre Dame; and Suzanne Shontz, University of Northern Iowa.


Citation: Caroline J. Klivans

Caroline J. Klivans is a senior at Cornell University. After distinguishing herself in her sophomore and junior year in classes mostly populated by upper-division students and graduate students, Ms. Klivans was accepted in the National Science Foundation summer program Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at Rutgers University. There, she "astounded" the faculty by "her ability to assimilate new material and then take it one step further." Her paper on visual navigation for autonomous mobile robots consists of an "outstanding" theoretical proof and algorithms which will be the first to be ported to the vehicle just acquired by Rutgers. Just as exceptional as her mathematical development, Carly's enthusiasm surpasses any that her professors "ever [saw in] an undergraduate [over the course of] thirty years." She was president of the undergraduate Math Club during her junior year, invigorated the colloquium and dinner series, with attendance doubling, and organized trips to attend American Mathematical Society meetings and the Spring Bourbaki Seminar in Paris. With the central student governing body financing mostly airfares, she arranged for her charges to be housed by Parisian mathematicians, who followed up with "very positive feedback." Not only do predictions converge on Ms. Klivans' future as a mathematical "leader at a national level," they also acknowledge her uniqueness as a "wonderful role model for young women in mathematics."

Response from Klivans

I am honored to be recognized by the Association for Women in Mathematics with the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would like to thank the AWM for all of their efforts to promote women in mathematics. It is encouragements such as these which will bring more women into the field. I thank Sven Dickinson and Diane Souvaine for guiding me in new directions. Also, I am indebted to the entire Cornell math department, but would like to thank Oraeme Bailey, Bob Connelly, David Henderson, and especially Lou Billera for teaching and believing in me.


Honorable Mention: Laura Ciobanu

Laura Ciobanu is a senior mathematics major at Franklin & Marshall College. She has excelled academically, both at her institution and at ETH in Zürich, where she spent her junior year. She developed a special interest in combinatorics and performed summer research under a Franklin & Marshall grant. In her report she produced equivalent forms of a standing conjecture. Her nominations speak of "extraordinary talent, independence, and enthusiasm."

Response from Ciobanu

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for awarding me an Honorable Mention in this year's Alice T. Schafer Prize competition. I am honored to receive this prize and I hope that my development as a mathematician will prove me a worthy recipient. I would particularly like to thank Professor Arnold Feldman, a great teacher and mentor.


Honorable Mention: Catherine S. Grasso

Catherine S. Grasso is a senior mathematics major at the University of Michigan, the winner of several awards and scholarships. She participated in two REU programs, at the University of Michigan Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Santa Fe Institute researching the Bacterial Genetic Algorithm. Now in her fifth year at the University of Michigan, Catie Grasso struck her mentors by taking a "[non-]linear [path]." She spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, concentrating in art history; directed and produced a play; played competitive ice hockey and served in numerous associations. She is commended for an original and "truly searching" attitude, as well as intellectual courage, at the interface of science and humanity.

Response from Grasso

I am thrilled about having received an Honorable Mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. More than that, I am thrilled about the existence of the prize and the AWM. I often feel like I am the only female mathematician in the world. It is reassuring to receive convincing and wonderful evidence to the contrary. Thank you!

I would also like to extend my gratitude to Peter Hinman, Elleanor Crown, Fred Bookstein, Richard Palmer, Bent Stensones, Igor Dolgachev, and George Piranian. Thank you for being amazing teachers, advisors, and most importantly friends.


Honorable Mention: Amanda Mueller

Amanda Mueller is a senior mathematics major at the University of Notre Dame, who impressed her professors by precociously excelling in undergraduate and graduate courses, including graduate topology which she took during her semester in London. Her results from the REU summer program at the University of Washington, on a graph-theoretic approximation to the Dirichlet Problem, are so good that she is urged to submit them for publication, as well as apply "to the best graduate schools."

Response from Mueller

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for granting me an Honorable Mention in the Alice T. Schafer Prize competition. I would also like to thank my family for cultivating my affinity for math, Dr. Jim Morrow for nurturing my interest in research, Dr. Nancy Stanton for encouraging me, and Dr. Frank Connolly for nominating me.


Honorable Mention: Suzanne Shontz

Suzanne Shontz is a double major in mathematics and chemistry at the University of Northern Iowa, where she is a fifth-year senior student. She participated in three summer REUs (National Geometry Center, University of Minnesota; University of Kentucky; and Cornell University). Out of each project, as well as a Kappa Mu Epsilon research project, she produced a paper in subjects as diverse as curves in projective planes, medical imaging, homoclinic bifurcations, and symmetry of molecules. She gave over twenty presentations at meetings of student or professional societies. Her list of awards and scholarships is over thirty items long. She participated in numerous problem-solving contests, including COMAP, where her team earned an honorable mention.

Response from Shontz

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics for awarding me with an Honorable Mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize. I would also like to thank the Mathematics Department at the University of Northern Iowa for nominating me for this award. In addition, I'd like to thank Jesus DeLoera, Rick Wicklin, Peter Perry, and John Hubbard for supervising my mathematical research projects.