SIAM News Blog

Honoring Nandi Leslie

To celebrate Black History Month, SIAM is featuring Dr. Nandi Leslie, a prominent Black applied mathematician from our community. We encourage you to take a moment to read through this spotlight, explore a compilation of resources and networks tailored for Black professionals in STEM, and learn more about our ongoing commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion. 


Dr. Nandi Leslie graduated magna cum laude with her B.S. in mathematics from Howard University in 1999. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in applied and computational mathematics from Princeton University in 2005 and 2002, respectively. From 2005-2007, Dr. Leslie taught in the Department of Mathematics at University of Maryland, College Park, where she was also a Postdoctoral Researcher sponsored by the National Science Foundation Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences conducting research. She also led and contributed to government projects on using modeling and simulation for sensor (e.g., acoustic, Global Positioning System) performance and cybersecurity for the Department of Defense and other customers at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. as a Program Manager and Senior Operations Research Analyst from 2007-2015.

Dr. Leslie is currently a Principal Technical Fellow at RTX, formerly Raytheon Technologies, which is the highest technical honor for RTX employees. In this position, she also served as the Raytheon Internal Research and Development Chief Engineer and Chief Data Scientist. She served as a Visiting Professor at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Senegal in 2019, and since 2020, she has served as a Lecturer and Research Advisor for master’s degree research in the Applied and Computational Mathematics and Data Science Programs at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Leslie’s research interests focus on machine learning, AI, stochastic processes, and computational approaches for cybersecurity and sensor performance problems. 

Dr. Leslie has been a SIAM member for four years and is currently a member of the SIAM Travel Awards Selection Committee and the SIAM Committee on Programs and Conferences. Her participation in the SIAM community has been instrumental in her development as an applied mathematician since her graduate studies, and the community has continued to be an excellent resource for growing and sharing her understanding of applied and computational mathematics and its related fields. She also serves as a member of the Princeton University Board of Trustees, and she has served on scientific advisory committees, including:

  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on AI and Justified Confidence Committee Member
  • Howard University, Center of Excellence in AI and Machine Learning Advisory Board Member 

From 2008 to 2015, Dr. Leslie also served on the Board of a non-profit organization, College Advocate, which provided college preparatory services to high school students from underrepresented minorities, including African Americans, others from the African diaspora, and Latinos. Since 2015, she has continued to participate in efforts supporting women and minorities in the mathematical sciences and engineering, including the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative, Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering, and Women in Data Science Conference at Stanford University. Additionally, she received the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution in Industry in 2020.

Resources and Networks for Black STEM Professionals

The Black community continues to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Below are resources and networks that may be of interest to Black professionals of all ages. 

SIAM’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

As a professional society, SIAM is committed to empowering equitable, diverse, and inclusive participation in all aspects of our community. SIAM will provide a climate that encourages the open expression and exchange of ideas, that is free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and that is welcoming and comfortable to all members and to those who participate in its activities.

In pursuit of this commitment, SIAM is dedicated to the philosophy of equality of opportunity and treatment for all participants regardless of gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief, age, marital status, disabilities, veteran status, and field of expertise.

Relevant SIAM Programs

MGB-SIAM Early Career Fellowship 

The MGB-SIAM Early Career Fellowship recognizes the achievements of early career applied mathematicians – particularly those belonging to racial and ethnic groups historically excluded from the mathematical sciences in the United States — and provides support for professional activities and career development. The fellowship reflects a joint commitment by Mathematically Gifted & Black (MGB) and SIAM to promote long-term engagement of fellows within SIAM and continued success within the wider applied mathematics and computational sciences community. Learn more about the 2023 Class of MGB-SIAM Early Career Fellows.

SIAM-NAM Reciprocal Membership

SIAM and the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), a non-profit professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence in the mathematical sciences and the mathematical development of all underrepresented minorities, now have a reciprocal membership agreement. Individuals who belong to NAM get 30% off SIAM membership, and vice versa. With our complimentary missions, this partnership will help increase the number of people, especially underrepresented minorities, taking part in the activities of both SIAM and NAM – a priority on which our two societies are very well aligned. Learn more about the reciprocal membership here

SIAM-Simons Undergraduate Summer Research Program

Through the support of the Simons Foundation, SIAM established the SIAM-Simons Undergraduate Summer Research Program a new applied mathematics and computational science program that will provide research, networking, and mentorship opportunities to U.S. students from underrepresented groups. Each year, this program will establish five sites across the United States for one faculty mentor and two students to work together for six weeks. Students and mentors from the five sites will come together via video conference to present their work, participate in professional development activities, and engage in community-building initiatives to bring all participants together and foster a strong sense of belonging. Students accepted to the program will: 

  • Learn how to conduct scientific research and effectively communicate mathematics and computational science principles
  • Gain an improved understanding of how they can pursue a career in applied mathematics and computational science
  • Visit the Flatiron Institute in Manhattan
  • Attend the SIAM Annual Meeting the following year to present their research project

Workshop Celebrating Diversity at SIAM Annual Meetings

This longstanding yearly event, held during SIAM Annual Meeting and funded by the National Science Foundation, provides a chance for students to listen to technical talks presented by underrepresented minority graduate students. The workshop is intended to accomplish several goals: 

  • To send a clear, explicit message of enthusiastic welcome and support from SIAM to members of underrepresented groups. The workshop is deliberately held as part of a regularly scheduled SIAM Conference so that the participants can combine the experiences of attending a scientific meeting and a special occasion dedicated to them. 
  • To bring together a mixture of people from different levels of age and professional experience, ranging from undergraduate students to senior scientists. 
  • To provide an opportunity for underrepresented minority graduate students to present their research.
  • To provide an informal, comfortable setting where all the students can meet applied and computational mathematicians with a wide variety of jobs in academia, national laboratories, industry, and government.
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