Zoë Batterman ’24 Wins National Undergraduate Mathematics Prize

Zoe Batterman on Stover Walk

Zoë Batterman ’24 has been awarded the 2024 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM).

The competitive prize is awarded annually to an undergraduate student for excellence in mathematics. This year, Batterman is one of two winners in the country.

Nominees are evaluated on the ability for independent work in mathematics, demonstration of real interest in mathematics, and quality of performance in advanced mathematics courses and special programs.

Batterman has proven herself through research at Pomona College during her sophomore year with Assistant Professor Konrad Aguilar as well as participation in two summer research experiences, one in 2022 at Pomona with Professor Edray Goins and another in 2023 at Williams College with Steven J. Miller. Her work this past summer led to four preprints (preliminary versions of scholarly papers) with two more papers in preparation and has attracted the attention of experts.

For her work, she has received Honorable Mention for Outstanding Poster at MAA (Mathematical Association of America) MathFest and Outstanding Poster at MAA SoCal-Nevada Section.

Earlier this year she was named a 2023 Goldwater Scholar, which recognizes students who show exceptional promise of becoming this nation’s next generation of research leaders.

I have watched her grow into a powerhouse of a mathematician.

“I have watched her grow into a powerhouse of a mathematician,” says Goins.

The AWM aptly notes that “the prize honors more than just the women selected. It recognizes the mentors, the departments and the research programs that provide support, nurturing and guidance.”

Batterman credits several faculty members at Pomona for drawing her into the Mathematics Department, providing her research opportunities, and supporting her in presenting at conferences.

Goins, however, deserves the lion’s share of the credit, she says, as her faculty advisor and the one who nominated her for the Schafer Prize.

“I cannot express my gratitude in words for his phenomenal attention to detail in mentoring, training, and advising me in all aspects of my mathematics career,” Batterman says on AWM’s website in response to receiving the prize.

She says that Goins “really cares about his students. He is a hands-on kind of mentor: very directed and organized. I benefited a lot from his mentorship style. It helped me to be more independent and self-motivated for the next opportunity.”

This is the second nod to Pomona’s Mathematics Department in three years. Two years ago Elena Kim ’21 also won the Schafer Prize.

Batterman appreciates the recognition given to Kim and herself because she notes that students at large research universities tend to draw more attention through math competitions and “have access to a lot more resources like graduate courses.”

Without those graduate courses available to Batterman, Goins worked personally with her on graduate-level material that he had taught while a professor at Purdue University.

“We worked through Galois Theory and Tate’s Thesis, which she learned better than most of the graduate students I have known,” he says.

After graduating this spring, Batterman plans to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics.

Winning the Schafer prize, she says, “reaffirmed that I want to do math and join the community and the conversation.”