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.
Ruth Britto-Pacumio, a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the winner of the sixth annual Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize.
Wung-Kum Fong, a junior at the University of California, Berkeley; Nancy Heinschel, a senior at the University of California, Davis; and Jessica Wachter, a junior at Harvard University, were declared runners-up. Two honorable mention citations were awarded to Tara E. Brendle, Haverford College and Karen Shuman, Agnes Scott College.
Our winner Ruth Britto-Pacumio is a junior at MIT, where she has already completed the requirements for a mathematics major with no grade below ‘A’ in any subject. One faculty member writes, "Ruth is a truly outstanding student. [As a sophomore last year] she took our hardest undergraduate math courses.... She was the top student, in very tough competition, in my algebra course. This year she continues to excel in graduate courses." Another faculty member comments, "Every few years an individual dominates a class here at MIT. In the class of 1996 this is occurring, [and it is] Ruth Britto-Pacumio. She seems to know everything and be everywhere." Britto-Pacumio was also a participant in a 1994 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and wrote a paper on graph theory, which has been submitted for publication. Her performance in that program was described as "truly extraordinary." This year, she won the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize for her excellence in the Putnam Competition.
Runner-up Wung-Kum Fong is currently in her third year at Berkeley. Having completed several undergraduate honors courses with flying colors, she is now taking graduate level courses and reading courses in which she is also excelling. She is described as an "exceptional student," "stronger than many graduate students" at Berkeley. In the summer of 1994, she participated in the Mills College/Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) Summer Program.
Runner-up Nancy Heinschel is a senior at UC, Davis. She has taken an impressive array of advanced math courses there while maintaining a 3.99 GPA. She participated in an REU program at Oregon State University last summer where she completed a research project on "Sufficient Conditions for Global Stability in Population Models." She has also served as president of both the UC Davis math club and the UC Davis chapter of the Pi Mu Epsilon honor society. In the fall, Heinschel will begin graduate studies in mathematics at Stanford University.
Runner-up Jessica Wachter is a junior at Harvard. Having completed some of Harvard's most challenging undergraduate courses with an outstanding performance, she is now taking graduate courses. In the summer of 1994, she participated in an REU program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and wrote a paper for publication entitled "Universal Destinations in Graphs." She has also worked as a teaching assistant at a National Science Foundation (NSF) summer program for mathematically talented high school students. One faculty member, in whose class Wachter was the top student, summed up his recommendation by writing, "Jessica is very talented, very mature, and strongly motivated."
Honorable mention awardee Tara E. Brendle is a senior at Haverford who will enter graduate school in mathematics in the fall. In the summer of 1994, she began research in knot theory at an REU program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and has been writing an impressive senior thesis on the subject. Her undergraduate thesis advisor writes, "The quality of her performance in my course, her level of interest in mathematics, and her ability for independent work are all among the highest I have ever seen."
Honorable mention awardee Karen Shuman is a senior at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. She has taken a full range of math courses, consistently earning top scores and straight A's. In the summer of 1994, she participated in an REU pro-gram at the College of William and Mary where she worked on a research project in linear algebra. She is described by one of her professors as "unusually talented and creative ... disciplined and conscientious ... simply outshining every other student."