Karen E. Smith

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Karen E. Smith
Alma materPrinceton University
University of Michigan
AwardsRuth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics (2001)
Elected to US National Academy of Sciences (2019)
Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2021)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
Doctoral advisorMel Hochster
Doctoral studentsChelsea Walton

Karen Ellen Smith (born 1965 in Red Bank, New Jersey)[1] is an American mathematician, specializing in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry. She completed her bachelor's degree in mathematics at Princeton University before earning her PhD in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1993. Currently she is the Keeler Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan. In addition to being a researcher in algebraic geometry and commutative algebra, Smith with others wrote the textbook An Invitation to Algebraic Geometry.


Smith graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Princeton University, where she was influenced in her freshman year by Charles Fefferman. She was a high school mathematics teacher in the academic year 1987/1988. In 1988 she became a graduate student at the University of Michigan,[2] where in 1993 she earned her PhD with thesis Tight closure of parameter ideals and f-rationality under the supervision of Melvin Hochster.[3] In the academic year 1993–1994 she was a postdoc at Purdue University working with Craig Huneke. In 1994 she became a C.L.E. Moore Instructor and then an associate professor at MIT. Since 1997 she has been a professor at the University of Michigan.[2]

In 1991 she married the Finnish mathematician Juha Heinonen. He died in 2007.[2]


In 2001 Smith won the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics for her development of tight closure methods, introduced by Hochster and Huneke, in commutative algebra and her application of these methods in algebraic geometry. The prize committee specifically cited her papers "Tight closure of parameter ideals" (Inventiones Mathematicae 1994), "F-rational rings have rational singularities" (American J. Math. 1997, and, with Gennady Lyubeznik, "Weak and strong F-regularity are equivalent in graded rings" (American J. Math., 1999).[4]

In addition to the Satter Prize, Smith was the recipient of a 1997 Sloan Research Fellowship,[5] a Fulbright award, and a University of Michigan Faculty Recognition Award for outstanding contributions as a teacher, scholar and member of the University community.[6]

Smith was selected to give the 2015 Earle Raymond Hedrick Lectures at the Mathematical Association of America's MathFest.[7] Smith was chosen to give the Association for Women in Mathematics-American Mathematical Society 2016 Noether Lecture at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.[8]

In 2015 she was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society "for contributions to commutative algebra and algebraic geometry."[9] She was named MSRI Clay Senior Scholar for 2012-2013.[10] In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[11] The Association for Women in Mathematics has included her in the 2020 class of AWM Fellows for "her tireless support of women in mathematics; throughout her career, she has officially and unofficially mentored numerous female mathematicians at every level from undergraduate to full professor; she continues to be an incredibly strong role model for women everywhere".[12] She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.[13]


  • An Invitation to Algebraic Geometry (with Lauri Kahanpää, Pekka Kekäläinen, and William Traves, Universitext, Springer, 2000 and 2004).[14]
  • Rational and Nearly Rational Varieties (with János Kollár and Alessio Corti, Cambridge Studies in Advanced Mathematics 92, Cambridge University Press, 2004).[15]


  1. ^ Birth year from Library of Congress catalog entry; birth place from Satter Prize citation.
  2. ^ a b c O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Karen Smith", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews
  3. ^ Karen E. Smith at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ "2001 Satter Prize" (PDF), Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 48 (4): 411–412, April 2001
  5. ^ "Sloan Past Fellows", Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sloan Foundation, retrieved 18 August 2015
  6. ^ University of Michigan, Department of Mathematics, "2005 News Archive", University of Michigan Department of Mathematics, University of Michigan, retrieved 17 August 2015
  7. ^ "Invited Addresses: Earle Raymond Hedrick Lecture Series", Mathematical Association of America, Mathematical Association of America, retrieved 17 August 2015
  8. ^ Karen E. Smith Named 2016 Noether Lecturer, Association for Women in Mathematics, archived from the original on 2016-05-30, retrieved 17 August 2015
  9. ^ 2016 Class of the Fellows of the AMS, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2015-11-16.
  10. ^ MSRI, "Mathematical Sciences Research Institute", www.msri.org, retrieved 2021-06-07
  11. ^ "National Academy of Sciences Elects Members and Foreign Associates; Historic Number of Women Elected to Its Membership", News from the National Academy of Sciences, April 30, 2019
  12. ^ 2020 Class of AWM Fellows, Association for Women in Mathematics, retrieved 2019-11-08
  13. ^ New Members Elected in 2021, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, retrieved 2021-04-22
  14. ^ Reviews of An Invitation to Algebraic Geometry:
  15. ^ Reviews of Rational and Nearly Rational Varieties:

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