Professor Kate Poirier | D030 | Fall 2022

Indigenous People’s Day/Hispanic Heritage Month assignment

Due on the OpenLab Monday, October 17

October 12 is Indigenous People’s Day! September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month! For this assignment, we’ll honor Indigenous mathematicians and Hispanic/Latinx mathematicians by learning about their lives and their work.

Pick one mathematician who identifies either as Indigenous or Hispanic/Latinx (or both) and who stands out you. Then write a short profile/biography of them as a comment on this post.

Where can you learn about mathematicians from these communities?

There are lots of places online to find out about these mathematicians. Here are a few resources:

  • Lathisms showcases contributions of Latinx and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences; check out the Calendars and Podcasts tabs at the top of the screen.
  • showcases mathematicians from indigenous communities; check out the Profiles and Honorees tabs at the top of the screen.

You can consider these two sites as starting points. Once you’ve chosen the mathematician you want to profile, try to find something out about them that’s not on one of these two sites. Most mathematicians have their own websites, which you can usually find by Googling their name (these may be more up to date than the two sites above). Some of them are active on Twitter and other social media. Your profile should include:

  1. Their name
  2. What community they are part of/identify with
  3. Something about their work (try to understand something about their work don’t worry if you don’t really understand it, just tell us whatever you found out about it)
  4. Where they are from
  5. Where they live/work now
  6. Why they are interesting or inspiring to you
  7. Anything else you learned about them that you’d like to share
  8. You can’t embed a photo in an OpenLab comment; if you want to include a photo of your mathematician, you can write your profile in a separate post and include a link to it in the comments on this post (tbh I love pictures!).

Why are we doing this?

As Frank remarked when we discussed the Bad-at-math assignment, mathematicians of European descent tend to dominate the popular conception of who mathematicians are. For example, in Calculus, we are mostly learning about work by these two dudes, who practically look like twins, right?

As a society we tend to ignore contributions from other groups, but there are working mathematicians of all different identities and from all different backgrounds. Here is a chance for us to learn about and celebrate work by people who often go unrecognized.


  1. Nayya Santana

    The mathematician I chose was Minerva Cordero Brana, specifically because she, like me, is Puerto Rican. She was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. An interesting fact about Professor Cordero and how she got her inspiration to pursue education is that she was born to a mother who dropped out of school in the fifth grade and education became extremely important to her thereafter. She studied Mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras during her undergraduate years, received an MA in Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and received a PhD from the University of Iowa in Mathematics as well. Professor Cordero Brana currently works at the University of Texas at Arlington. She teaches mathematics and has assumed a leadership role as a Senior Associate Dean of Science. Cordero has won many awards over the span of her career, the most recent one being the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring awarded in May of this year.

  2. Ken Mei

    The mathematician I chose was Alejandro Vélez-Santiago because after reading articles about him he’s nice and hardworking which was inspiring for me to see and that motivated me to also want to try harder as well. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is the third son of a family of six siblings. He was also born with autism and chronic asthma. Alejandro liked math and music and was placed into violin classes at the age of 10 years old. He excelled in music, particularly violin performances. He began to play for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra when he was in the 11th grade in highschool. At the age of 16 a miracle happened where Alejandro was healed from his autism and chronic asthma. He actually wanted to pursue a career as a violinist but after listening to his parents advice he went to complete his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico. After two post doctoral positions at Iowa State University and the University of California Riverside, he was hired by the University of Puerto Rico where he’s currently an Associate Professor of Mathematics.

  3. benyusufov

    The mathematician I’ve chosen is Tyler Ortiz He spent years working in this industry before deciding to change careers, which led him to Asheville School in North Carolina. In his eighth year of high school, Tyler is currently back on the west coast where he coaches basketball and football and teaches Algebra II and Honors Statistics at The Thacher School in Ojai, California. Tyler is a seasoned AP Statistics instructor who takes equal pride in his work on the courts and sporting fields as he does in the classroom. He has coached varsity football teams of eight and eleven players, golf, and boys’ and girls’ basketball for the past nine years while working in boarding school education. Coming to work every day is his favorite part of teaching. I’ve chosen Tyler Ortiz because he feels fortunate to have a career that doesn’t feel like a “job.”

  4. Russell

    I chose Kaitlyn Martinez, the mathematician of the day on Lathisms. Kaitlyn was born in Colorado Springs and studied applied math at the Colorado School of Mines. Now she is a mathematical biologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, researching the spread of diseases. This surprised me because I associate Los Alamos with the nuclear bomb and thought researchers at the lab would research something to do with nuclear energy. But according to their website they’ve grown a lot since the Manhattan Project and now conduct research in all kinds of fields, like for example modelling the spread of diseases which was very relevant during Covid-19. Some interesting things about Kaitlyn is that she is a “non-Spanish speaking Hispanic raised culturally white”, so she says she struggles with her place in the Hispanic community. She also has a research paper called Modelling Bullying as a Disease.

  5. Erick Hidalgo

    The mathematician I chose was Dr. Pamela E. Harris, who is a Mexican-American mathematician who serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Faculty Fellow of the Davis Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Williams College. Her research is in algebraic combinatorics. To my understanding, algebraic combinatorics is an area of mathematics that employs methods of abstract algebra, notably group theory and representation theory, in various combinatorial contexts and, conversely, applies combinatorial techniques to problems in algebra. As of right now, I couldn’t find where she resides at the moment. She still works at Williams College. Shes interesting to me because her professional mission is to develop learning communities that reinforce students’ self-identity as scientists, in particular for women and underrepresented minorities. In support of this mission, 

  6. Jonathan Pavel

    The mathematician I chose is Juan de Herrera. He was a famous Spanish architect and mathematician specializing in geometry. He was born in Valdáliga, in Cantabria, Spain in 1530. He died in 1597, in Madrid. His main focus in mathematics was geometry, and its applications in architectural designs. He wrote about geometrical calculations in the projecting of 3D images onto 2D surfaces, and is one of the first to accurately calculate perspective when drawing images of architectural scenes. His work showed people how to mathematically translate lines in a design into 3D images and vise versa. Juan de Herrera interests me because I am interested in architecture and drawing.

    • Jonathan Pavel


      The specific type of geometry he studied was the ratios and proportions in perspective drawing.

      Also, I forgot to mention that Juan de Herrera founded the Academia de Matemáticas de Madrid in 1582 under King Felipe II. This was the precursor to the modern Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences.

  7. Brian Yi

    The mathematician I have chosen is Ruth Gonzalez. Gonzalez, both of whose parents came from Mexico, was raised in Houston, Texas. Her interest in math and science developed throughout her elementary and high school education.

    In 1976, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Texas. While doing research at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas from 1976 to 1980, she earned her master’s degree in mathematics.

    In 1980, Gonzalez joined the Exxon Production Research Company as a geophysical mathematician and continued her graduate work at Rice University. In 1986, she received her Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Rice, making her the first U.S.-born Hispanic woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics! And her work involved in developing mathematical models for wave propagation problems in underwater acoustics. For the submarines to avoid detection and seismic imaging tool for exploring underwater. She’s had an extensive career developing seismic imaging tools and encourages other minority girls and women to pursue a career in math and science.

    There was an interview in a 1998 Exxon publication that, “if they can just see how much science affects them every day, these kids begin to understand its relevance in their lives and learn that math can be fun, not just some horrible subject the have to suffer through.”

    Now, Ruth has served as an adult literacy tutor for a program she supports at Rice University and volunteers at the Houston Area Women’s Center and a shelter for homeless teenagers.

  8. raneem moussa

    The mathematician I chose to write about is Georgia Sandoval. She is DinĂ© (Native American) from Tuba City, Arizona, and currently works as a Cloud and Enterprise Solutions Engineer at Intel. Being in a predominantly male and white-dominated field, she felt was hiding her identity a lot to fit in because people often made racist and disgusting remarks from men. After high school, she started at DinĂ© College and finished her Associate’s in General Science at Coconino County Community College. When she became a mother, she realized she had to focus on her career. She enjoyed her math courses and decided to pursue pure mathematics at Arizona State University. As a single mother, college was often a struggle for her. She used internship money to pay for childcare, gas, and housing. While a student, she became actively involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), eventually serving as her chapter’s president. When she attended an AISES career fair in Orlando, Florida, she landed an internship with Raytheon Technologies, an aviation, space, and defense company. This was her first experience working in software engineering. Later, she got a software engineering internship at Boeing because of a Native American she knew working there. She is definitely an inspiration for women who both are mothers and pursue STEM.

  9. omar Jaber

    One mathematician who stands out to me is Dr. Luis Caffarelli. He is a mathematician from Argentina who identifies as Hispanic. He has made significant contributions to the field of mathematics, and his work has been recognized with several awards and honors, including the Fields Medal in 1994. Dr. Caffarelli was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Buenos Aires. He then went on to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Minnesota. He is currently a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

  10. Manuel Esteban

    One mathematician that stood out to me was Jaime Escalante. He’s a Bolivian mathematician that came to the United States in the 1960s. He was one of the few teachers that decided to teach gang members and people who were thought to be unteachable. So much that he became a national hero. He’s a really inspiring character due to the fact that he went out of his way to teach people who couldn’t get a proper education and people who didnt have the necessary resources to get an education. He lived here in the United States but sadly passed away on March 30, 2010.

  11. Daniel Abramshe

    The mathematician who I’ve selected is Mary Golda Ross, of Cherokee descent. She was the first known female Indigenous American engineer, and the first female engineer to work for the Lockheed Aircraft company. Her work included studies of pressure on the P-38 Lightning -one of the fastest military aircraft of the time- as well as numerous projects related to spaceflight, including the Agena program, which was among the United States’ earliest reconnaissance satellites.

  12. Shadman

    Jaime Escalante was a renowned Bolivian-American educator, born in 1930 La Paz, Bolivia. He immigrated to East LA in the 60s, and in 1979 he taught at Garfield HS. He gained notoriety by being a fantastic teacher—extremely well known and extremely good at teaching Calculus and other disciplines in Math. Quite literally, a movie was made on him in 1988 about him (which I will be watching at some point). His students, primarily inner-city hispanic kids consistently outperformed every other group in APs. I’m not sure on what his methods were, but they were highly effective since his students had extreme academic success. He continued on this track in the form of education reform, and he passed away in 2010, but his legacy still stands with his students.

    Honestly, I do find his story very respectable and inspiring because I fully believe teachers change lives and are very necessary to society, since they quite literally affect the future of society, via the youth. I don’t think teachers get the recognition they do, and to see this is very nice.

    • Shadman

      I just realized someone wrote about him. I just looked up, ‘notable Latin American mathmaticians’ and he had a cool picture, so I just picked him.

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