The Randomness of Life – Hug Your kids

Stanford University announced the very sad news that Professor Maryan Mirzakhani passed away on Friday, due to breast cancer. She was 40. She leaves a husband and a daughter.

Young Maryam Mirzakhani

Three years ago she won the Fields Medal, the Nobel prize of math. I wrote about this on the ICS blog. Princeton’s Peter Sarnak told the Times her groundbreaking work created tools that are now the ‘bread and butter’ of working mathematicians.

As the first woman to win this award, I dreamed she would serve as an inspiration to girls at ICS and everywhere. Especially those suffering from the false belief that they are “not good” at math. Mirzakhani once thought that too, but her teacher saw past this and encouraged her anyway.

Her obit notes that unlike the Nobels, the Fields are bestowed only on people aged 40 or younger, not just to honor their accomplishments but also to predict future mathematical triumphs. So in a sense her her untimely death is a loss for all of us.

My mom did not win a Fields but she died young too, of cancer, And so today also reminds me that life can be fleeting; that we need to make the most of every day. And hug each other a lot.

May her memory be for blessing.