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Atlanta, GA | Posted:
December 7, 2017 *

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) has named Georgia Tech student Libby Taylor the recipient of the 2018 Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize. She will receive a B.S. in Mathematics from Georgia Tech in spring 2018, only two years after she graduated from Wheeler High School, in Marietta, Georgia.

Taylor’s advanced mathematical abilities have been evident since high school, according to School of Mathematics Emeritus Professor Tom Morley. As a high-school junior, Taylor took Morley’s third-year-college course Combinatorial Game Theory, and she led the team that applied the theory in interesting ways to Gomoku, the classic five-in-a-row game from China. Taylor’s work, Morley says, “showed mathematical maturity way beyond her age or educational background.”

Also while in high school, Taylor took the undergraduate Number Theory and Cryptography course taught by School of Mathematics Professor Matthew Baker.

As an undergrad at Georgia Tech, Taylor has been taking graduate-level courses and conducting original mathematics research. Hard working and highly motivated, she regularly attends research seminars, reads math books and papers voraciously, and eagerly gives talks at workshops and conferences in the U.S. and overseas. She learns as much as she can from discussions with graduate students, postdocs, and professors.

Professors describe Taylor as a strong, talented student with staggering potential, who is fearless in learning new topics, asks insightful questions, and is quick to pick up sophisticated ideas. Already she has six preprints published, one manuscript in preparation, and a chapter in a book about categorical representation theory called “Soergel Bimodules.”

“I have been continually impressed by her mathematical intellect, her initiative, and her ability to absorb mathematics,” says School of Mathematics Assistant Professor Jennifer Hom. “I look forward to seeing what Libby’s future holds.”

“The friendly atmosphere in the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics contributed greatly to my mathematical development,” Taylor says. “It has always been easy to find professors willing to help answer questions, suggest further reading, and discuss mathematical ideas with me. This environment is not present everywhere; this is something special about Georgia Tech.”

Taylor specifically credits her research mentors, Baker and School of Mathematics Professor William T. “Tom” Trotter, both of whom began advising Taylor on research projects when she was still in high school. “Their mentorship gave me a significant head start in my mathematical education and research,” Taylor says.

The Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize is named after the former president and founding member of AWM who contributed greatly to women in mathematics. The prize recognizes excellence in mathematics by an undergraduate woman.

Each year, AWM names a winner, a runner-up, and at least two honorable mentions. Among them are the following with Georgia Tech connections:

- Samantha Petti, 2015 runner-up and now a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech
- Megan Bernstein, 2010 honorable mention and now a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech
- Nicole Larsen, 2009 runner-up when she was an undergrad at Georgia Tech and now a research fellow at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago
- Josephine Yu, 2003 runner-up and now an associate professor at Georgia Tech

AWM will recognize the 2018 winner, runner-up, and honorable mentions on Jan. 10, 2018, at the 2018 Joint Mathematics Meeting, in San Diego, Calif.

“This achievement has validated the work I have put into my education over the past few years,” Taylor says. “The accomplishments of past recipients motivate me to continue working hard to live up to their examples.”