April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. Each year, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics—a collaboration between SIAM, the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, and the Mathematical Association of America—holds a month-long celebration to enhance public understanding and appreciation of mathematics and statistics. Mathematical and statistical research drives technological innovation and leads to discoveries of broad societal importance across many scientific fields. Throughout the month of April, universities, high schools, student groups, research institutions, public information offices, and other related organizations host math-related workshops, competitions, lectures, and other activities. Participants are encouraged to share their math-related festivities using the hashtag #MathStatMonth on social media.
Honoring Mathematicians and Statisticians in Our Community
In honor of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, SIAM has spotlighted influential mathematicians and statisticians from our community. Learn more about them below.
Dr. Vrushali Bokil
Dr. Vrushali Bokil is the Chair of the SIAM Career Opportunities Committee (COC), in which she participates in SIAM conferences and organizes various minisymposia, and is a Professor of Mathematics and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at Oregon State University (OSU).
When Dr. Bokil was 15, she had decided to study astrophysics, get a Ph.D., and become a professor. Later, she identified more naturally with abstract ideas; learning algebraic geometry and complex analysis as an undergraduate got her into a mathematics program. In 2003, Dr. Bokil received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Houston. She was a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Research in Scientific Computation at North Carolina State University before joining as Assistant Professor of Mathematics at OSU in 2006.
Educational Outreach Initiatives
As an assistant professor, Dr. Bokil participated in a National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Research and Training program in Ecosystems Informatics, training students in mathematics, statistics, computer science, and the life sciences to conduct research at the interface of the quantitative and life sciences. More recently, she was involved in a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) project at OSU in risk and uncertainty quantification in the marine sciences that trained students to work in transdisciplinary research groups on significant societal problems related to ocean systems.
As an ADVANCE Fellow at OSU, Dr. Bokil created a seminar for graduate students in mathematics on "Building Diverse, Inclusive, Respectful and Welcoming Mathematical Communities." In the winter of 2020, with the help of a faculty member in integrative biology and another in contemplative studies, she extended this seminar to another called, "Mindfulness and Anti-Oppression in Science," by incorporating mindfulness meditation practices as tools to combat oppression. She has also been a Predoctoral Mentor for underrepresented students through the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences (“Math Alliance”).
Furthermore, Dr. Bokil is on the steering committee of WINASc: Women in Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing, a research network with the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). She is working with AWM to organize a workshop called AWM Aligning Actions at Crossroads, which is focused on understanding and creating welcoming environments within mathematics departments that are interested in driving cultural change at their respective institutions; to invite more people to enter and persist in STEM disciplines.
Research and Notable Projects
Dr. Bokil's general research interests are in applied mathematics and scientific computing, particularly numerical analysis of wave propagation problems and mathematical biology. She is currently funded by the NSF on a project that is an inter-disciplinary collaboration involving mathematical modeling, computational simulation, and experimental data, for accelerating the design of advanced electromagnetic nanocomposite materials as well as alternative power generators. A second project, in collaboration with co-PI, Professor Frederic Hamelin of Agrocampus Ouest in Rennes, France, is funded by the Thomas Jefferson Fund managed by the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE) Foundation. The project, "Modeling, Analysis and Optimal Control Strategies," is on the mathematical epidemiology of viruses coinfecting plants.
Dr. Padmanabhan Seshaiyer
Dr. Padmanabhan (Padhu) Seshaiyer is the Chair of the SIAM Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC) and a Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the George Mason University (GMU).
Career and Awards
Dr. Seshaiyer is a tenured Professor of Mathematical Sciences at GMU, Fairfax, Virginia. His research interests are in the broad areas of computational mathematics, data science, biomechanics, design and systems thinking, and STEM education. At his institution, he has served in multiple leadership positions including the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of the STEM Accelerator Program, and the Director of Center for Outreach in Mathematics Professional Learning and Educational Technology.
Dr. Seshaiyer has served in leadership positions for multiple external organizations including SIAM, Council on Undergraduate Research, National Math Alliance, the U.S. National Academies Commission on Mathematics Instruction, and the NSF. His work has led to over 135 peer-reviewed journal publications, over 325 keynotes, plenary or invited talks across the globe, and over $16 million in grant funding over the last two decades. In 2019, he was selected as Figures that Matter, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Vrije Universiteit Brussel for being a committed scientist who transcends the boundaries of their own disciplines and to personalities that have been at the frontiers of societal change. In 2021, he was honored with the Earle C. Williams Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Social Impact at GMU.
Currently, Dr. Seshaiyer serves as the Chair of the SIAM Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC), that consists of a distinguished group of members that assist SIAM in addressing policy issues that arise in relationship to underrepresented groups. Through the SIAM DAC, he has worked closely with three different Chairs of the SIAM Workshop Celebrating Diversity (WCD) committee over the years. He has helped coordinate several panels and workshops for SIAM including a panel on Celebrating Diversity in Mathematical Sciences, panels on funding, career and workforce development opportunities during the WCD Luncheon, research mini-symposiums at the WCD, as well as workshops to promote awareness of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) in Applied Mathematics.
Educational Outreach Initiatives
Through his leadership positions, Dr. Seshaiyer has initiated and directed a variety of educational programs including graduate, undergraduate, community college student research, K-12 outreach, teacher professional development, and enrichment programs to foster the interest of students and teachers in STEM at all levels. As a faculty in mathematical sciences, Dr. Seshaiyer strongly believes in engaging students beyond the traditional philosophy of “here is the mathematics, go solve the problem” to “here is the problem, let’s find the mathematics to solve it.” Dr. Seshaiyer has mentored over 200 student research projects at all levels including high school, community college, undergraduate and graduate students. As he leads his students to design and test potential solutions using mathematical sciences, he is always mindful of the space that educators need to provide students. He strongly promotes the idea that educators need to grasp the paradigm shift of moving beyond just teaching students what is known to engaging them in what they want to know.
Dr. Seshaiyer has actively worked over the years with three different VPs of Education for SIAM, representing SIAM at the USA Science and Engineering Festival for several years and has continued to work with various Presidents of SIAM student chapters across the nation. He has also helped to promote the awareness of important opportunities to the mathematical community in SIAM News through science policy and research articles. He was also one of the members on the ad hoc taskforce group established by the SIAM Committee on Science Policy that helped draft a report to inform the NSF’s response to present needs associated with the pandemic.
Moreover, Dr. Seshaiyer has helped to create FOCUS, Females of Color and those Underrepresented in STEM, a project that has impacted over 600 middle and high school girls over the past 6 years. This program received the “Programs That Work” award from the former Governor of Virginia for being an exemplary student program in the State of Virginia. He also helped to build partnerships across the globe with over 23 countries that has led to new programs and initiatives, including STREAM: Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, which provides nurturing for all students to become life-long learners. Dr. Seshaiyer also taught a 4-week intensive course on numerical analysis and mathematical modeling for graduate students at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania that was highlighted by the Notices of the AMS.
SIAM encourages its members to partake in Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month and proudly share the importance, beauty, and applicability of their research with the general public.