Diversity

The science and technology fields struggle to be welcoming towards women and people of color. I believe it is the responsibility of all those who benefit from systems of power to work to deconstruct them. The lack of diversity in the field is not only unjust, but it is also to the detriment of the field. A diversity of minds brings with it a diversity of ideas. I recognize my own privilege, and how much I have personally benefited from this unjust system. I am dedicated to critically reflecting on my position in this system and working collaboratively to increase equality in science and academia.

I was a founding member of our Department of Applied Mathematics Diversity Committee. Comprised of a mix of faculty, graduate students, and departmental staff, we worked to advance inclusion and diversity in the department and in the field of applied mathematics. We applied for and were selected to receive funding to create a women’s mathematics mentorship program. We forged a new partnership with STEM Upward Bound to provide graduate student instructors for their summer college preparation course for underrepresented minorities.

I also aspire to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere in all of my classes. The list of inspiring and influential female and minority mathematicians is vast, and by intentionally calling attention to it, I hope my students from all backgrounds can see a place for themselves in this field.

Image credit: xkcd Comic (click image for link)

Mathematics Outreach

Image courtesy of Encyclopedia Brittanica. The area of a circle is not just a formula to be memorized – it can (and should) be understood intuitively!

Image courtesy of FiveThirtyEight. Mathematics is pervasive in modern society. Through statistics and modeling, we can interpret the world around us, including political systems!

“I hate math!” This is the most common response I receive when I tell someone I am a mathematician. It is culturally acceptable for successful and fulfilled people to proudly declare a lack of interest in an entire field of human inquiry. This is an absolute shame, because so many people miss out on the opportunity to see the wonderful and beautiful things hidden in the world of mathematics.

The Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart, is a thought-provoking essay on the subject that echoes my own perspective. The way many people experience mathematics in school obfuscates everything wonderful and beautiful about it. Children are taught to be glorified calculators at a time when Mathematica can automatically accomplish everything that is taught in mathematics through the first few years of college, and scientific computing software is used for almost every real world problem. People are sheltered from the artistry of a satisfying proof, from the otherworldly beauty of fractals and topology, and from the mesmerizing dance of chaotic systems.

I aspire to help self-described “math-phobes” gain an appreciation for the field I love. I have prepared syllabi for college-level courses I plan to teach some day to an audience of non-mathematics majors. They encourage playful and creative exploration of advanced mathematical topics framed in contexts that are relevant to everyone: Political MathematicsDiversity in Mathematics.

Adventure is out there!

Stories

Throughout my whole life, I have been fascinated by stories. Humans are innately storytelling creatures. Telling stories, fictional and real, allow us to connect with one another. It allows us to construct a shared idea of what is worthwhile and aspirational. We tell stories that move one another, inspire one another, and cause us to reflect on the challenges of the world. Science writing could benefit from couching its arguments in compelling narratives instead of as cold facts. That is how people engage with their worlds.

I engross myself in stories in the form of books, plays, musicals, television, movies, and conversation. I will update the image here to reflect stories that have most recently ensnared me.

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Games

I have fond memories of playing games and solving logic puzzles with my family as a child, and I’ve carried that love of play with me. I love games of all kinds: board games, video games, puzzles, card games. There is something exciting about agreeing upon a set of rules and exploring how to succeed and interact with others within that framework. That is what mathematicians do every day as they explore the rules of numbers. Contrary to popular belief, mathematics is a playful subject!

The intersection of mathematics and games, in the form of probability and game theory, fascinates me. I love thinking about probabilities and strategies in poker, and about gaming strategies. People are willing to commit themselves to understanding complex rules in the context of games, and I am interested in the idea of “gamifying” mathematics education. An interesting example is Prime Climb, as developed by local mathematics outreach organization, Math for Love.

I am also interested in the process of constructing engaging and interesting rules of one’s own. This led me to dip my toes into game design, and I aspire to continue exploring this fun and fascinating world.

Travel

I love exploring and engaging in different cultures. As a child, my parents took me on wonderful vacations around the country and globe. I studied abroad in Clermont-Ferrand, France, during my junior year of college. The process of immersing myself in a foreign culture was eye-opening and invigorating.

Since then, I have endeavored to see as much of the world as possible. I’ve recently traveled to Japan, Italy, Ireland, and England. Along the way, I’ve learned so many things about the history, traditions, art, food, and ways of life of those different than me. I find a tremendous amount of pleasure in these differences, and I have so much more of the world to see.