SIAM News Blog

SIAM Celebrates Diversity in Mathematics

By Raegan Higgins, Erica Graham, and Shelby Wilson

The 20th SIAM Workshop Celebrating Diversity (WCD) took place at the 2016 SIAM Annual Meeting (AN16) in Boston, MA, this summer. Participants of the three-day workshop heard talks from 22 speakers, including postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and industry professionals. All speakers were female and/or an underrepresented minority.

WCD began in 1996 as the “Graduate Student Focus on Diversity Workshop” when the computational and applied mathematics minority graduate students at Rice University helped lead its organization. The primary organizers—past president of SIAM Margaret Wright (New York University), Richard Tapia (Rice), and former Rice graduate students Monica Martinez, Cassandra McZeal, and Pamela Williams—put much time and effort into the day’s events. The result was a spectacular and exciting workshop, with back-to-back activities from 10:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. The daylong event included two sessions (eight speakers) and a luncheon. Over the years, the workshop evolved into Diversity Day, extending to three days with 24 speakers. WCD, the current event, follows the same format with 24 speakers and a luncheon.

Erica Graham (Bryn Mawr College), Raegan Higgins (chair, Texas Tech University), and Sue Minkoff (University of Texas at Dallas) were the WCD committee members for AN16. The session themes ranged from fluid dynamics and image analysis to optimization and computational statistical methods. The session on applications to biological and medical sciences was very well attended.

Shelby Wilson (Morehouse College) discusses angiogenesis inhibitors during the Workshop Celebrating Diversity at the 2016 SIAM Annual Meeting. SIAM photo.
A session entitled “Showcasing Diversity: Women in Mathematical Biology” featured three minority women mathematicians who discussed their research on mathematical problems with applications to biological and medical sciences. The talks covered a variety of pure and applied mathematical tools, from algebraic topology to numerical techniques, while the biological topics ranged from the prediction of DNA folding to species migration modeling. This session also highlighted the depth and breadth of the field of mathematical biology.

Building on the momentum that has steadily grown over the past two decades, the WCD organizers look ahead to the next 20 years with great enthusiasm. The goal has always been, and still remains, to introduce a newer generation of underrepresented researchers to the SIAM community while building connections among a diverse body of applied mathematicians at all stages of their careers. Current WCD organizers Erica Graham (chair of the WCD committee for the 2017 SIAM Annual Meeting), Raegan Higgins, and Shelby Wilson (Morehouse College) wish to expand the growing WCD community by adding to the events that already successfully embody the workshop’s mission. In addition to the minisymposia and luncheon for participants and honored guests, which have become workshop staples, the organizers have begun planning a WCD kickoff mixer to coincide with the start of the 2017 SIAM Annual Meeting. We look forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh next summer!

Raegan Higgins, an associate professor of mathematics at Texas Tech University, works in the area of time scales with an emphasis on oscillation criteria. She was the WCD chair for the 2016 SIAM Annual Meeting. Erica Graham is an assistant professor of mathematics at Bryn Mawr College. She works in the area of mathematical biology, with applications to endocrinology. Erica is WCD chair for the 2017 SIAM Annual Meeting. An assistant professor of mathematics at Morehouse College, Shelby Wilson works in mathematical biology with applications to the medical sciences. She will be the WCD chair for the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting.

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