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37-year-old Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win what is considered the Nobel Prize of Mathematics – the Fields Medal.

The medalist is a Harvard PhD graduate. She is currently a professor at Stanford University.
Mirzakhani’s passion for Mathematics started during the Iran-Iraq war. Although she “did poorly in math” during her early middle-school years, as reported in her interview with The Guardian, she later on became very passionate about it thanks to her brother.

As Mirzakhani was publically declared the winner of this year’s medal, most newspapers were more interested in her Iranian nationality and her background. For many, the fact that Mirzakhani is Iranian is as fascinating as being the first woman to be awarded with such a prestigious medal.

According to Mirzakhani, she owes a lot to her years in Iran where her school principle she describes as a “strong-willed woman” “was willing to go a long way to provide us with the same opportunities as the boys' school”. Nonetheless, she thinks that if she was born 10 years earlier, she might not have had the same opportunities that she was given. Mirzakhani praised the educational system in Iran: “I should say that the education system in Iran is not the way people might imagine here. As a graduate student at Harvard, I had to explain quite a few times that I was allowed to attend a university as a woman in Iran. While it is true that boys and girls go to separate schools up to high school, this does not prevent them from participating say in the Olympiads or the summer camps”. Above all, her success comes from the fact that the she was always encouraged by her parents and by her passion and dedication.

The little kid who dreamed of becoming a writer is now one of the most influential people in the scientific world. She is also an inspiration for many women coming from modest or repressed societies. Her achievement is a light of hope for many women in Iran and in the Arab countries fighting for their right to education and freedom.
Pascale Asmar