Iranian Student Association honors late mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani

Iranian Student Association honors late mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani

Iranian Student Association honors late mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani
November 01
18:26 2017

The beat of a Persian goblet drum — a tombak — echoes through the Union as a student sings in her native tongue. The setar, an ancient lute instrument, strings along as they all harmonize together.

“Oh dear Maryam/for Maryam’s sake, open your eyes, call me/let’s set off, leave the house, together, to remember those days/oh dear Maryam.”

The somber Iranian folk tune is sung in remembrance of Maryam Mirzakhani, a renowned mathematician who became the first woman and first Iranian to be honored with the Fields Medal. Comparable to the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal is the most prestigious award a mathematician can earn. Mirzakhani was also the first Iranian woman to win the gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Mirzakhani became a professor at Stanford before passing away in July from breast cancer at the age of 40.

“[The song] repeatedly says, ‘Come back Maryam, come back,’” said Sohrab Miezaabedini, a graduate student in material science and member of UNT’s Iranian Student Association (IRSA). “It’s really sad. The song is very old, so it’s not written for [Mirzakhani], but we thought it would be a great way to honor her.”

Her success story in the Iranian community and around the world motivated IRSA to commemorate Mirzakhani and the role model she has become for thousands of Iranian men and women.

In collaboration with Society of Women Engineers and Global encoUNTers, IRSA will host a formal commemoration of Mirzakhani on Thursday inspired by her motivating success stories. Complete with a speech, performance and delectable Iranian treats, the organizations feel that this is a proper way to remember a figure they consider a role model.

The music picks up as the beat of the tombak and the chords of the setar blend together. The beat picks up in an urgent calling as the setar takes over, filling the room and creating a glow around Behpour as she continues calling for Maryam.

“This is our second rehearsal — last week was our first one,” said Sahar Behpour, a Ph.D. physics student and IRSA treasurer. “The song is sad, but we want to show our love for her. It’s somber but beautiful.”

With only three hours of rehearsal under her belt, this will be Behpour’s first time singing in public.

“We want to honor Maryam Mirzakhani in the best way possible,” Miezaabedini said. “She was a role model to all of us. Maryam was a rule-breaker who continuously fought [against] traditions. She didn’t care if she was a man or a woman. She was just persistent in following her career.”

Miezaabedini looks to Mirzakhani’s legacy as motivation for his studies because he sees many parallels between his life and hers. Mirzakhani’s resilience — even in times of failure — is what helps Miezaabedini to keep moving forward.

“[Iran] has a lot [of] geniuses, and Maryam is one of them,” IRSA president Nastaran Barhemmati said. “Personally, the motivation I get from her is her lifestyle. She discovered her skills and then followed them. Most of us don’t discover what we are best in and we don’t follow them, [but] she did. Success is one step above hopelessness. If you go just one step above, then you will be successful.”

Mirzakhani’s dedication and persistence are what IRSA wants to display at the commemoration. Their goal is to highlight her resilience as a minority woman in a difficult, competitive field. The members of IRSA believe Mirzakhani sets an example of how anyone can accomplish their goals with the right mindset.

“Limitation is everywhere, but [Mirzakhani] broke it all,” Barhemmati said.

The melody draws attention to Behpour as she finishes off the last line of the ode to Maryam: “Come, come dear Maryam, dear Maryam. Oh Maryam, Maryam, dear Maryam.”

Featured Image: Members of the Iranian Student Association gather in remembrance of mathematician Maryan Mirzakhani. Mirzakhani was the first woman and first Iranian to win the Fields Medal. Sadia Saeed

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Sadia Saeed

Sadia Saeed

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