Maryam Mirzakhani broke barriers by becoming the first woman to receive the Fields Medal, the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics. The award honored her work regarding Reimann surfaces and their moduli spaces. Mirzakhani, who grew up in Iran, graduated from Harvard University with a PhD and is currently a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. She has stated in several interviews that as a child, though she craved knowledge, she did not have an interest in mathematics, but she could never back down from a challenge. It was through the support she received from women in her community that led her to excel to where she is today.
Historically, women have been at a disadvantage in STEM fields due to gender bias, but Mirzakhani’s achievements are a stepping stone to shattering this glass ceiling. She has stated that she would be happy if her success encourages young female scientists and mathematicians to pursue the fields of their interest and achieve excellence themselves.