SIAM News Blog

Honoring Dr. Erika Tatiana Camacho

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, SIAM is recognizing the achievements of Hispanic mathematicians throughout September and October. Dr. Erika Tatiana Camacho is the National Science Foundation Program Director for the Racial Equity in STEM, ADVANCE, and HSI programs as well as a co-lead for the latter. She is also a professor in applied mathematics at Arizona State University (ASU). Dr. Camacho has been a SIAM member since she herself was a student. Throughout her career, she has been a dedicated SIAM volunteer, serving on SIAM’s Committee on Science Policy, Diversity Committee, conference organizing committees, and as an editor for SIAM Undergraduate Research Online (SIURO).

Education and Career

Dr. Camacho grew up in East Los Angeles and was taught by Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School. She received her B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Wellesley College and earned her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Cornell University. Dr. Camacho spent a year as a post-doctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She then held a tenure-track faculty position at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) before taking her current position at Arizona State University (ASU).

She has worked with summer research programs for undergraduates throughout her career, including co-directing two programs in six different summers. These programs were dedicated to the recruitment of undergraduate women, underrepresented minorities, and those that might not otherwise have the opportunity to do research as an undergrad. In 2007, she moved to ASU where the student population was far more heterogeneous and representative of the U.S. population than any she had seen since high school. At ASU she was able to devote more time to her research although she still spent countless hours on efforts related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.

Over the next several years, she served on numerous boards including the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), as well as on the AMS Council.

Research and Awards

Dr. Camacho published the first set of mechanistic models addressing photoreceptor degeneration, providing a new framework to mitigate blindness. Her research has utilized data and collaboration with experimentalists to create mathematical models. Using dynamical systems, parameters estimation, sensitivity analysis, and optimal control theory she has given insight into pathways and therapies that can help halt blindness due to photoreceptor degeneration. Her leadership, scholarship, and mentoring have won her numerous national and regional recognitions including the 2019 AAAS Mentor Award, the 2014 PAESMEM award from the White House, the 2020 AWM Louise Hay Award for Mathematics Education, the 2018 AAHHE Outstanding Latino/a Faculty in Higher Education Research/Teaching (Research Institutions) Award, the 2017 Great Minds in STEM Education Award, the 2012 SACNAS Distinguished Mentoring Award, and the 2011 Hispanic Women’s Corporation National Latina Leadership Award, among many other national awards and honors. She was a 2013-2014 MLK Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Dr. Camacho’s passion is to continue the work and legacy of her mentors by creating opportunities for those individuals from marginalized communities and make education and advancement attainable to them. Thank you, Dr. Camacho for your contributions to applied mathematics and your dedication to providing accessible educations to underrepresented groups.

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