Our Stories

Our Stories

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.


Session I: Saturday, November 18, 10:30-10:50 AM US Central Time

Jon Oaks (Professor at Macomb Community College)

Jon Oaks has been a math professor at Macomb Community College since 2011. He has taught mathematics in some form since he started working as a tutor as an undergraduate student at Ferris State University. Some of his interests lie in improving mathematics curriculum through technology, cultural awareness, service-learning projects, and online learning. In his story, he will share a little about math, technology, learning, and life in general.

Dr. Michelle Hirsch (Head of Product for MATLAB)

Dr. Michelle Hirsch is a technology leader and an out transgender woman. Michelle has a degree in Mathematics and has built her career at a company with “math” in the name, so you’d think her career trajectory would be fairly obvious. Far from it! Michelle will discuss how she went from a degree in math to be the Head of Product for MATLAB, a scientific programming language and environment used by over 5 million engineers and scientists worldwide. She’ll also talk about her experience transitioning from male to female mid-career, discussing some things that went well, some things that went less well, and the progress we’ve made since then.

Jessica Benally (Graduate Student at University of California Berkeley)

Jessica Benally (Diné) is from Tohatchi, New Mexico, a PhD student in the Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley. She got her BS in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Native American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Benally’s research interests are around designing mathematics curriculum and tools that are grounded in Diné mathematics. She will share about her experiences at UNM and Berkeley math departments, being a student parent, and working toward epistemological shifts in mathematics. 

Session II: Saturday, November 18, 3:00-3:20 PM US Central Time

Amaury Miniño (Graduate Student at Colorado State University)

Amaury is a Dominican Fourth-year PhD student in Mathematics at Colorado State University. His research is in decomposing tensors into orthogonal components. He has a passion for math communication, and for introducing students to research opportunities. He has mentored students who want to engage with research in STEM and recognizes the importance of having a strong support network. In 2019 he participated in MSRI-UP, and in 2020 he helped organize the first OURFA²M² conference. His plan is to stay in academia after receiving his PhD so that he can continue providing resources and support to students.

Dr. Siddhi Krishna (Ritt Assistant Professor and NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University)

Siddhi Krishna is a mathematician working in the field of "low-dimensional topology", the subfield of mathematics investigating 3- and 4-dimensional spaces. She is a first-generation American who never considered academia or mathematics as a career until after graduating from college -- in fact, in her senior year of college, alternate careers she considered were behavioral economist, advertising agency analyst, and ethnomusicologist! However, after realizing how much she loved math, she enrolled in a post-bac/masters program; she eventually graduated from Boston College with her PhD in 2020. Much of Dr. Krishna's career has been spent feeling like an outsider; as such, supporting students from groups historically excluded from mathematics is an important part of her professional life. In this talk, she will describe her pathway to mathematics, and some of the things (both positive and negative) that impacted her trajectory. All are welcome! 

Lucy Martinez (Graduate Student at Rutgers University)

Lucy Martinez received her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and a computer science minor from Stockton University in 2021. She went to graduate school at Rutgers University, where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in mathematics. She is a recipient of the 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Her research interests are in experimental mathematics, combinatorics, and graph theory.

Lucy is involved in the mathematics community: in the summer of 2021, she participated in the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) program, where she expanded her network of female mathematicians from different backgrounds and built mentoring relationships. In the summer of 2022, she was a graduate teaching assistant at ICERM's computational combinatorics REU. At Rutgers, she is an academic success mentor, where she provides math tutoring and mentorship support through one-on-one sessions for all students. 

Lucy is the daughter of immigrants. Her family returned to Guatemala when she was three years old, and she was raised there for eleven years. She started as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. As such, her goals include influencing other Hispanic students to pursue their dreams and supporting the Hispanic math community. 

Session III: Sunday, November 19, 10:30-10:50 AM US Central Time

Dr. Joseph Nakao (Assistant Professor at Swarthmore College)

Joseph Nakao (he/him) is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Swarthmore College. He has a B.S. in applied mathematics from Seattle University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. Nakao specializes in scientific computing and numerical analysis, with a particular emphasis on applications in plasma physics. He is on the editorial board of MAA FOCUS, the newsmagazine of the Mathematical Association of America, and the board of directors for Spectra, the association for LGBTQ+ mathematicians. In this talk, Nakao will describe his journey to becoming a proud gay applied mathematician, as well as provide advice for young queer mathematicians navigating their careers.

Rachel Bailey (Graduate Student at University of Connecticut)

Rachel Bailey is a 5th year Ph.D. student at the University of Connecticut studying orthogonal polynomials and applications in operator theory. She took a 6 year gap between high school and starting undergrad, earning her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Connecticut at the age of 27. In her story, Rachel will talk about what it was like to be a non-traditional student, the challenges she faced in her first year of graduate school and how she overcame these challenges. She will also discuss some of the experiences that she feels have helped propel her career in mathematics and things she wished she knew before starting graduate school.

Dr. Daniel Cruz (Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Florida)

Dr. Daniel Alejandro Cruz is an Ecuadorian immigrant and DACA recipient. He got his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of South Florida, and he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology before joining the University of Florida as a Postdoctoral Associate. He has served on various committees supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. He also enjoys promoting the work of early career researchers, especially those from historically underrepresented groups, through the seminars and mini-symposia that he organizes. In his talk, Dr. Cruz will discuss some of the challenges he faced during his academic journey as an (undocumented) immigrant and give some advice for those interested in a career in mathematical sciences.

Session IV: Sunday, November 19, 3:00-3:20 PM US Central Time

Dorian Smith (Graduate Student at University of Minnesota Twin Cities)

Dorian Smith is a fifth-year PhD student at University of Minnesota Twin Cities studying algebraic combinatorics. She received her BS in Mathematics from the University of Arizona and her MS in Mathematics from California State University Los Angeles. She loves graph theory, parking functions, math education, travel, and jigsaw puzzles. 

Dr. Seppo Niemi-Colvin (Postdoctoral Associate at Indiana University)

Seppo Niemi-Colvin is a neurodivergent gay transmasculine mathematician who grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He did a combined bachelors and masters at Bryn Mawr College, which is also where in community with other trans people, he discovered he is transgender, though at the time he identified as agender. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, he took a gap year, before starting a PhD program at Duke University. There he discovered that he is a man and started medically transitioning, as well as studying his current topic of low dimensional topology and knot theory. He currently has a post-doctoral position at Indiana University, continuing his research and teaching calculus.

Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton (Associate Professor at Bates College)

Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton is an Associate Professor of Digital and Computational Studies at Bates College, and co-founder and Executive Director of the Institute for a Racially Just, Open, and Inclusive STEM education (RIOS Institute). Dr. Diaz Eaton is a proud first generation Latinx and mother. Dr. Diaz Eaton values the complex interplay at the intersection of their identities, professional activism in STEM education, and her research. Research projects include a focus on interdisciplinary computational and quantitative education and STEM postsecondary education policy and systemic change.