Sheela Devadas (right) receives the Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics from Professor Ruth Charney of Brandeis University, then president of the Association for Women in Mathematics. Image: Magnhild Lien, executive director, Association for Women in Mathematics
Sheela Devadas (right) receives the Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics from Professor Ruth Charney of Brandeis University, then president of the Association for Women in Mathematics. Image: Magnhild Lien, executive director, Association for Women in Mathematics

Sheela Devadas was 15 when she was first exposed to representation theory and other subfields of mathematics as a participant in PRIMES, MIT’s Program for Research in Mathematics, Engineering and Science for high school students. Later that fall she was a finalist in the Advantage Testing Foundation’s Math Prize for Girls, hosted that year by MIT.

Fast forward to Devadas’s final semester as an MIT senior. Just months away from graduating with a degree in math (she’ll have completed her studies in three years), Devadas traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to accept the 2015 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics from the Association for Women in Mathematics. She is also coauthor of a paper on representation theory that appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Commutative Algebra.

PRIMES was formative in Devadas’ decision to pursue math as a career (she will be starting graduate school this fall, although she does not yet know where). “I already knew I was interested in math when I started PRIMES, but it was definitely what convinced me that academia was my goal. I got a sense of what math research was actually like.”

Her advice for incoming MIT students who like math but aren’t sure if they want to major in it? “I would definitely recommend taking math classes beyond General Institute Requirements. Some of them are a lot of fun and they give you a better sense of what math is like than the required calculus classes might.”

Devadas is the sixth person from MIT to win the Schafer prize in the 25 years it has been awarded. Past award recipients are Fan Wei ’12, who won the prize in 2012; Charmaine Sia ’10 (co-winner 2010); Maria Monks ’10 (2009); Galyna Dobrovolska ’09 (2008), and Ruth Britto-Pacumio ’96 (1995).

Read about other students’ experiences with PRIMES, in their own words.

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4 comments

  1. Jahirul

    great!!
    I  love mathematics.
    I love MIT

  2. Jahirul

    mathematics is awesome.
    i love mathematics 
    i love MIT

  3. kalyani

    Dear Sheela
    All of us are so very proud of you .We know that there are many more awards coming along.Keep it up.

  4. We are elated that this very young mathematician girl  Sheela Devadas is of Indian Origin. We hope she will come to India and give guest lecture in some of our schools and colleges 

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