Petra Šparl Award

The Petra Šparl Award was established in 2017 to recognise in each even-numbered year the best paper published in the previous five years by a young woman mathematician in one of the two journals Ars Mathematica Contemporanea (AMC) and The Art of Discrete and Applied Mathematics (ADAM).

It was named after Petra Šparl, a talented woman mathematician who died mid-career in 2016 after a battle with cancer. The first award was made in 2018 to Dr Monika Pilsniak (AGH University, Poland) for a paper she published in AMC on the distinguishing index of graphs.

Nominations for the 2020 award were invited in 2019, and all cases were considered by a committee (consisting of the three of us, listed below) appointed by the Editors-in-Chief of AMC and ADAM. As judges we were impressed by the large number of papers in these journals over the five years 2015–2019 having a woman author or co-author, with many of these being women in the early stages of their career. With helpful commentaries from co-authors and/or nominators, we drew up a long list of candidates for the 2020 award, sought reports from referees on those, and also considered the papers themselves, before deciding.

The two winners of the Petra Šparl Award for 2020 are Simona Bonvicini (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy) and Klavdija Kutnar (University of Primorska, Slovenia).

Simona Bonvicini receives the award for her contributions to the paper ‘Octahedral, dicyclic and special linear solutions of some Hamilton-Waterloo problems’, co-authored with Marco Buratti and published in Ars Mathematica Contemporanea 14 (2018), 1–14. This paper provides a solution for each of the nine Hamilton-Waterloo problems with cycles of length three and four, left open by Danziger, Quattrocchi and Stevens in their paper in 2009. Its value lies not only in dealing with the missing cases, but also in the elegant approach taken, and the novel techniques used. Solutions with high degree of symmetry are constructed by taking appropriate groups of automorphisms with sharply vertex-transitive action (which was not an easy task, as only one group for each case could be used). Simona’s contribution was described by her co-author Marco Buratti as significant at all stages, showing deep understanding and great skills.

Klavdija Kutnar receives the award for her contributions to the paper on ‘Odd automorphisms in vertex-transitive graphs’, co-authored with Ademir Hujdurovic and Dragan Marušič, and published in Ars Mathematica Contemporanea 10 (2016), 427–437. This paper addresses the question of which vertex-transitive graphs admit automorphisms that act as an odd permutation of the vertices. It reports on work that was initiated by Klavdija Kutnar, and is the first paper to consider such a question. The paper provides background motivation, makes some very interesting observations, and poses open questions for further study. Klavdija’s two co-authors attest that her contributions to the paper were of utmost importance, and that she provided key ideas in solving various problems. Also, the number of citations the paper has received on MathSciNet shows that it has opened up a new line of study, attracting several other researchers in the field.

The Petra Šparl Award was awarded at the 8th European Congress of Mathematics on Friday, 25 June 2021 at 12.30 (CEST).

The video of the award ceremony is now available for viewing.