PALO ALTO (CBS/AP/BCN) — Stanford mathematics professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the Fields Medal, mathematics’ leading award, has died of cancer at the age of 40, Stanford News Service said.

Mirzakhani was born in Iran and joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

She specialized in theoretical mathematics involving the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces such as spheres and doughnut shapes.

“Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement.

Describing Mirzakhani as a brilliant mathematical theorist, Tessier-Lavigne added, “Her contributions as both a scholar and a role model are significant and enduring, and she will be dearly missed here at Stanford and around the world.”

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani received the 2014 Fields Medal, mathematics’ top honor, the first woman in the prize’s 80-year history to earn the distinction. (Photo via Getty Images)

After earning a doctorate at Harvard, Mirzakhani accepted a position as assistant professor at Princeton University and as a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute before joining the Stanford faculty, the university said.

She received the Fields Medal in 2014. The award is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and a daughter, Anahita, the university said.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco. The Associated Press and Bay City News Service contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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