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Reflections on the Latinx in the Mathematical Sciences Conference 2018

QUBES thanks guest blogger, Vanessa Rivera-Quiñones, for sharing her experience with the QUBES Community:

Latinx in the Mathematical Sciences (LATMath) is a conference that brought together mathematicians at all career stages and in a wide variety of fields to celebrate mathematics as a community. Held at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM), it consisted of three days of amazing talks, a poster session, professional development, and a great dose of networking among its participants. Throughout the conference, I  was blown away by the wonderful intersections among different fields of math and how each speaker shared their own journey and passion for mathematics.  Here I share some of the highlights of the conference and what it meant for me to be a part of it.

Plenary sessions featured a great mix of applications and theory and showcased how the perceived divide between pure and applied mathematics is not always accurate. It was refreshing to see how well applications can drive theory in the same way theory can lead to new applications. It was a fantastic display of the power mathematics can have not only as a tool for problem solving but as a path of finding truth. If you find yourself intrigued you can find videos to the plenary talks in the link above, you won’t regret it!

Math Bio at LATMath: Even in the mathematical biology session, the breath of math was impressive! From a molecular to a population scale,  we saw Dr. Joey Teran’s work bring life to realistic animations and visual effects. This was followed by Dr. Emilia Huerta-Sanchez’ description of how to find patterns in genetic variation that tell a story of evolutionary events in DNA and Dr. Christian Laing’s work understanding the structure of RNA. Finally we heard, Dr. German Enciso Ruiz’s use of calculus of variations to explain how Chlamydia optimizes cell decisions to maximize infectivity and Dr. Sara del Valle’s probabilistic forecasting models to understand the spread of the flu.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the plenary talks was their intersection with social justice. To create equity and rehumanize mathematics, Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez highlighted that we should embrace the notion of mathematics in the service of humans rather than humans in the service of mathematics and provided concrete examples on how we can achieve this in the classroom but also in the discipline. This was echoed in Dr. Lily Khadjavi’s work on using LAPD data to address racial profiling, Dr. Dagan Karp’s moving reflection what a life long journey towards social justice looks like, and Dr. Moon Dunchin’s virtual talk on gerrymandering. These talks spoke to the role mathematics plays and can play to shape society. How can we use mathematics to help our community, and what is our roles as mathematicians in working towards social good by bringing our full identities to the table?

What made LATMath stand out? I loved the perfect balance between sharing knowledge and building community. Sharing our stories along with our math helped me realize both have a place in our field. I enjoyed the opportunity to present my work in both English and Spanish during the poster session and meeting others who shared my language and my culture. Being away from my native Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria was a very difficult experience. This conference offered me the opportunity to reconnect with old and new mentors, friends, and colleagues, especially one of my biggest role models Dr. Ivelisse Rubio. It gave me comfort to know we are a strong community with great resilience but most of all full of solidarity for one another. ¡Somos familia! (We are family!)  

Among its participants the energy was electric! As it came to an end, we celebrated together by dancing. In that moment, we were one community just celebrating our passion for mathematics (and dancing). One of the clear messages throughout the conference was and remains: “You belong, you are not alone.” A message that many of us felt deeply grateful for and that we will carry with us as we continue our journey.

Photo Credit: Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics.



Vanessa is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who enjoys teaching, learning applications of math, and making math accessible to everyone. Her research interests involve using mathematical models to understand how interactions among hosts, parasites, and the environment shape the spread of disease. Follow on Twitter at: @MissVRiveraQ.

  1. diversity
  2. inclusion
  3. ipam
  4. latinx
  5. latmath
  6. math
  7. mathbio
  8. stem

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