Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck, a professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, won the Abel Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of Mathematics last year. She was the first woman to win this award.

Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck, winner of the 2019 Abel Prize

On this coming March 18, Hans Petter Graver, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, will announce the winner of the 2020 Abel Prize. Hans Munthe-Kaas, chair of the Abel committee, will then give the reasons for the awarding of the prize. The announcement will be transmitted as a live webcast.

Professor Uhlenbeck admits that mathematics can be a difficult field for women to get their foot in the door.  She also pointed out that many STEM scholars in the USA come from overseas.

“I think what has changed today is that people are tremendously more subtle, so that you don’t know what it is you’re up against. This is true not only for women but for a lot of young people. Young people today are up against the fact that most of the young scientists are coming from abroad, and so most of the people coming into academia are being trained somewhere other than the United States. No one ever talks about this phenomenon of who is actually succeeding in the sciences and engineering — foreign-born men and women. I try to talk about this with my students. It’s difficult, however, because you’re not supposed to talk about it. In the large classes of engineering students I teach, I’m seeing a lot more diversity — women, Hispanics, African-Americans. It can be done, not just by white, Anglo men.”

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In addition to the Abel Award in 2019, Dr. Uhlenbeck won the Steele Prize of the American Mathematical Society in 2007 and the MacArthur Fellowship in 1982. Her specialty is partial differential equations.

Since Dr. Uhlenbeck is seeing more diversity amongst her students, perhaps this year’s winner will be female again, or a person of color.

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