Melanie Wood

Melanie Wood is very first lady to win Waterman Award in mathematics. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Personnel Professional Photographer

Acknowledged for contributions in number theory, algebraic geometry, geography.

The voicemail was exceptionally uncommon. It was from the director of the National Science Structure, who asked Melanie Wood to call him right back.

” You get a call from your program supervisor every as soon as in a while, about some grants or panels, however a call from the director of the National Science Structure? I have actually definitely never ever got a call from him previously,” stated Wood, a teacher of mathematics.

Wood, who had actually simply emerged from a virtual department conference, returned the missed out on call. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan informed her she was among 2 receivers of this year’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the company’s most prominent reward for researchers under 40 in the U.S.

” I believe I really utilized the word gobsmacked,” Wood stated. “It’s not something that anybody ever anticipates to win. I was simply blown away, entirely astonished, and so honored.”

Wood is the seventh Harvard researcher to get a Waterman, which the federal government has actually granted every year given that 1975, and the very first lady ever to get it in mathematics. This marks the 2nd year in a row a Harvard researcher has actually won a Waterman. In 2015, chemist Emily Balskus was among the winners. Wood shares the 2021 Waterman Award with Nicholas Carnes, a social researcher and scholar of public law at Duke University.

The award acknowledges Wood for essential contributions in number theory, algebraic geometry, geography, and likelihood.

” Wood is taking on the secrets and many intricate issues in mathematics by checking out the connection of number theory and random matrices,” Panchanathan stated. “It is a benefit to acknowledge Dr. Carnes and Dr. Wood as this year’s receivers of the Alan T. Waterman Award, the greatest honor offered to early profession researchers and engineers.”

Wood is best understood for her deal with number theory, among the earliest branches of mathematics that thinks about the residential or commercial properties and relationships of numbers.

” I am interested to understand if we keep an eye out into deep space of various possible mathematical systems, what will we see?” Wood stated. “Are most mathematical systems comparable to the familiar ones, or rather various? To what level do things we consider given with entire numbers, like prime factorization, stay the very same, and to what level do they differ amongst various number systems?”

Her enthusiasm for mathematics established early. She won a citywide mathematics competitors for middle schoolers in her home town of Indianapolis in 1994, when she remained in the seventh grade. She took initially in the state-wide contest that very same year and put 40 th at the nationwide level. The next year, she positioned 10 th amongst American middle schoolers. She was 16 when won silver in 1998 and 1999 with the U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad group. She was the very first lady to make the group.

Wood is utilized to being initially when it concerns awards. In 2002, she was the very first female mathematician to get the Putnam Fellow award from the Mathematical Association of America and in 2003 she got the Morgan Reward for exceptional research study as an undergrad. This likewise isn’t her very first NSF award. In 2017, she got a National Science Structure Profession Award. A quirkier addition to her prize case originated from Dove soap, which called her a good example for girls in 2012.

Amongst her peers and trainees, Wood is understood for mentoring college students through research study programs and motivating undergrads to get associated with mathematics research study.

” Within her pioneering contributions to mathematics she has the uncommon capability to discover tasks for undergrads thinking about attempting their hand at research study,” stated Michael Hopkins, George Putnam Teacher of Pure and Applied Mathematics and department chair. “She is a motivation to our neighborhood in all of its elements.”

Wood stated the Waterman Award will enable her research study group to handle high-risk, high-reward tasks that would be difficult without NSF assistance.

” The most interesting feature of the award research-wise is that it lets me begin brand-new tasks that I do not understand if they are going to work out,” Wood stated. “This will allow me to choose the long shots. In some cases they do not turn out, which is why that they’re not constantly simple to get moneyed, however often they do and they provide us the most interesting advancements.”

The award will exist at a virtual event later on this month. In addition to a medal, the award consists of $1 million in research study financing over 5 years.


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