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, December 4, 10:30 am - 11:00 am US Central Time

Corrine Yap (Graduate Student at Rutgers University)

Corrine Yap grew up in rural Missouri as the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines. She attended Sarah Lawrence College to study mathematics and theater and is now a 5th-year Ph.D. student at Rutgers University doing research in combinatorics. She is also the writer and performer of Uniform Convergence, a one-woman play about mathematics. She will talk about her experiences seeking out and building communities through study-abroad programs, REUs, the AWM, and more.

Dr. Andrés R. Vindas Meléndez (NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UC Berkeley and Postdoctoral Fellow at MSRI)

Dr. Andrés R. Vindas Meléndez is a queer, chronically-ill, Costa Rican-American mathematician, raised in Lynwood, South East Los Angeles, California. He is a first-generation college graduate and is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellow. He completed his PhD at the University of Kentucky where he was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and by a National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship. At the University of Kentucky he was also an affiliated graduate student in the Latin American Studies program and earned a graduate certificate in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino/a Studies. He earned a master’s degree in mathematics at San Francisco State University and completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley where he also minored in Philosophy and Chicana/o & Latina/o Studies.

Session II: Saturday, December 4, 1:30 pm - 2:00 pm US Central Time

Dr. Mits Kobayashi (Instructor at Dartmouth College)

Dr. Mits Kobayashi completed an undergraduate degree at Caltech not in math. After some years working outside academia, he received his PhD in mathematics from Dartmouth College and went on to teach at both Dartmouth and Cal Poly Pomona. Mits will tell some stories of how he went from point A to B to C to now, and things he learned along the way.

Dr. Gabriel Sosa Castillo (Assistant Professor at Colgate University)

Dr Gabriel Sosa Castillo grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia. After coming out in 2000, he dropped off college during his sophomore year and worked as a middle/high school mathematics teacher to support himself financially. Three years later he reenrolled in Universidad de Costa Rica, studying part time and working full time, and in 2008 he received his Bachelor degree in Mathematics. He obtained his PhD in Mathematics from Purdue University in 2015, afterwards he worked as a visiting assistant professor at Amherst College, and is currently an assistant professor of mathematics at Colgate University. He will highlight struggles, successes, the people who supported and helped him and lessons learned along the way.

Dr. Christie Mauretour (Algorithm Specialist at ClothingTechLLC)

Dr. Christie Mauretour grew up in Haiti and left after the 2010 earthquake to study in the US. She received her Bachelor degree in Mathematics from Florida Gulf Coast University. She continued her studies at the University of Florida where she received a Master in Industrial Systems Engineering and a Doctorate in Applied Mathematics. As an undergraduate, she gave numerous talks at USTARS (Underrepresented Students in Topology and Algebra Research Symposium), participated at an REU at the University of Minnesota (IMA). Her goal is to encourage women and minorities to join STEM related fields.

Session III: Sunday, December 5, 10:30 am - 11:00 am US Central Time

Miandra Ellis (Graduate Student at Arizona State University)

Miandra Ellis is a 6th year Applied Mathematics PhD student at Arizona State University working in the area of numerical linear algebra approaches to Inverse Problems. Her first undergraduate experiences at her dream liberal arts college originally deterred her from continuing in STEM. However, after returning to Arizona State University she used research experiences and upper division coursework to reignite her interest in STEM and complete her undergraduate career in Biochemistry and Mathematics. This talk will explore how overcoming her perceived failures forced her to explore how her identity was key to defining a career pathway that was fulfilling to her.

Dr. Maryam Khaqan (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stockholm University)

I was born and raised in Pakistan, and I got my undergraduate degree in Physics there before moving to the US to get my Ph.D. in math. I will talk a little about my background and would be happy to answer questions about the international student experience in US academia.

Dr. Kenya Wallach (Director of Mathematics at Discovery Education)

Overcoming adversity: Kenya Wallach received her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a focus in Statistics with a minor in Japanese. She began her college career as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering with a Minor in Japanese. Changing her major to Mathematics was due to her own experiences with adversities and trying to help children overcome adversity. Every step in her career has been altered by adversity and how she has dealt with it. She will discuss her current role and the journey to her current profession as the Director of Mathematics.

Session IV: Sunday, December 5, 4:00 pm - 4:30 pm US Central Time

Dr. Ashlee Keolalaulani Kalauli (Recent Graduate Student at University of California Santa Barbara)

Dr. Ashlee Keolalaulani Kalauli calls a family-run ranch on the Big Island of Hawai`i her home. After graduating from Kamehameha Schools Hawai`i, a school for students of Hawaiian ancestry, Dr. Kalauli attended the University of Hawai`i at Hilo studying both math and chemistry. It was here that she participated in her first research experience for undergraduates (PURE Math) and travelled to her first SACNAS national conference where the possibility of pursuing a doctorate became a reality. Battling uncertainty and unfamiliar territory, Dr. Kalauli completed a Masters of Arts in Teaching and taught high school mathematics for 2 years while applying to graduate school. After receiving a predoctoral Ford Fellowship, Dr. Kalauli chose to pursue a PhD in mathematics at the University of California Santa Barbara. She recently defended her work on the word problem for Euclidean Artin groups but she enjoys the unique word problem that arises when describing her nonlinear path through mathematics. In her story, she'll describe her journey and give praise to the people and programs who have helped her along the way.

Dr. Noelle Sawyer (Assistant Professor at Southwestern University)

Dr. Noelle Sawyer is a Black Bahamian mathematician. She will talk about what it was (and is!) like to navigate math in the US for her. Finding community is key, and she'll talk about the different ways to find community, all the ways having a community can help, and how it feels when 'the wider math community' isn't acting like it's in community with you.

Dr. Naomi Boulware (Visiting Assistant Professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology)

I’m currently a visiting assistant professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The story of how I got here is extremely non-linear. Rather than attempt to create an internally consistent story to explain what happened, this talk will simply highlight select aspects of the path that led from there to here. Items included: how a variety of things I did for a living that were perfectly legal but not admirable re-sparked my interest in mathematics after graduating with a BA in English Lit; the tremendous value of individual attention / connection with classmates at an HBCU (especially at a time when I appeared to be a white female rather than a white nonbinary individual); the impact my undergraduate advisor had on my career trajectory; advice I wish I could give my younger self (that I actually might have listened to – it’s a very short list).