Mathematicians will share their formative undergraduate experiences and how those experiences informed the trajectories of their careers. It can be hard to imagine your future, and that makes it hard to plan for it. We hope you’ll be able to see yourself in these stories, and that seeing mathematicians who were once where you are (no, really) will help you imagine and plan for your future.
Abstracts of talks will be available under the collapsible headings below as we receive them.
THIS SCHEDULE IS TENTATIVE AND MAY CHANGE BEFORE THE CONFERENCE.
Session I: Saturday, November 19, 10:30-10:50 AM US Central Time
Dr. Michelle Chu (Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota)
Michelle Chu is a Panamanian-American mathematician working in the field of geometric topology. Growing up in Panama, Dr Chu had not known any PhDs and had never considered an academic career. Thanks to a lot of support, encouragement, hard work, and great opportunities, Dr. Chu completed her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin in 2018 and recently became an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota -Twin Cities.
In her story, she will describe how she found her place in this math world and what she has learned along the way.
Dr. John Urschel (Junior Fellow at Harvard University)
John Urschel is a junior fellow at Harvard. Previously he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, and prior to that, a PhD student in math at MIT. In 2017, Urschel was named to Forbes’ “30 under 30” list of outstanding young scientists. His research interests include numerical analysis, graph theory, and data science/machine learning.
Karuna Sangam (Graduate Student at Rutgers University)
Session II: Saturday, November 19, 4:40-5:00 PM US Central Time
Aida Alibek (Graduate Student at the University of Georgia)
Aida Alibek (she/her) is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. She is from Kazakhstan, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math, and she first came to the USA in 2014 to pursue a PhD in mathematics with a specialization in Logic and Model Theory. However, as she faced both physical and mental health struggles during those years, Aida came to recognize that her main motivation for getting a PhD in the first place was to improve the teaching of college-level mathematics.
Now she is pursuing a PhD in Mathematics Education, an area combining both her love of math and her passion for better math education, which means she gets to combine her knowledge of mathematics content with research on teaching and learning of mathematics! Her talk will mainly focus on her transition from being a mathematician to becoming a mathematics education researcher. She will also share the valuable lessons she learned along the way about perseverance and staying true to oneself.
Dr. Benjamin Parker (Software Research and Development Engineer at Intel)
Christopher Havens (Program Content Director & Co-founder of Prison Math Project)
"A Journey Into Social Productivity" is a brief story about how Christopher Havens became a mathematician despite the adversity of being in prison, and how the beauty and truth in mathematics led to a profound transformation of self-identity.In this story, social productivity is described as being a form of social interactivity which benefits the world around us.
Christopher engages in in social productivity through his enjoyment for both collaborative researches in number theory and Diophantine analysis, and also in building the community through his efforts towards inclusivity and the diversification of mathematics.
Session III: Sunday, November 20, 10:30-10:50 AM US Central Time
Brandis Whitfield (Graduate Student at Temple University)
Brandis(they/she) is a fourth-year PhD student at Temple University researching topics in geometric group theory. They are passionate about mathematics, liberation and education.
Kate Blaine (Risk Adjustment Analyst at Excellus BCBS)
Kate Blaine earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bard College in 2019, where she also studied music. Since graduation, she has pursued an actuarial career. She has passed four actuarial exams while working towards the ASA (Associate of the Society of Actuaries) credential, and now works as a risk analyst at a healthcare company.
Her talk will focus on how her undergraduate experiences fostered her love of learning and the math community, and helped her determine her specific interests within the world of mathematics, which ultimately led her to put off graduate school and pursue actuarial exams. She will also provide some helpful tips and resources to any students who might want to consider the actuarial path.
Dr. Julie Vega (Teacher at Maret School)
Dr. Julianne Vega was a 6-8th grade math teacher immediately after completion of her undergraduate degree in mathematics at Susquehanna University. During that time she focused on introducing her students to college level mathematics and encouraging them to explore all areas of math. Her students' questions and her curiosity led her to a Research Experience for Teachers and, ultimately, graduate school at University of Kentucky, where she completed her PhD with the intention of returning to secondary teaching. Upon graduation, she worked as a tenure track professor at Kennesaw State University, before securing her current position at Maret School as a 9-12th grade math teacher.
During this session, she will discuss how she found and built community, maintained authenticity, and searched for career-building opportunities.
Session IV: Sunday, November 20, 3:00-3:20 PM US Central Time
Max Hlavacek (Graduate Student at UC Berkeley)
Dr. Adrienne Sands (Mathematician at MIT Lincoln Lab)
Kirin Martin (Graduate Student at Iowa State University)
Kirin Martin (they/them) is currently pursuing their PhD in mathematics at Iowa State University, working in discrete math. They were a first-generation college student (not to mention graduate student) with a generational history of low income and mental health disorders. Alongside their studies, Kirin has coped with ADHD, as well as generalized anxiety and depression largely experienced as echoing results of ADHD struggles. Friends jest that they ‘play life on hard mode’, pursuing an advanced degree despite a disability while also growing a family — they have one 5-year-old child (and a second child due to hatch this December), whom they have been able to birth and parent during grad school thanks especially to the incredible support of their partner. Kirin is nonbinary/transgender and ace/pan/poly (though the latter tends to occupy less brainspace when interacting with the world) and has had the great fortune of being well-supported in their continuing transition over the past few years.
What they most hope to convey during this talk is the wide variety of formal assistance available for disabilities like ADHD and how to access them, the immense importance of constructing for oneself a vibrant support system, and a bit of acknowledgement that it is really okay if you don’t feel like you’ve ever got everything together all at once. Juggling is a skill, and busy-ness can be fulfilling as long as you prioritize the parts of your life that are the most valuable to you above any preconceived ideas about what others expect of you.