UW’s Phi Beta Kappa Chapter to Host Renowned Mathematician April 23-24

head photo of a woman
Talitha Washington

A renowned mathematician, data scientist and educator will headline several University of Wyoming Phi Beta Kappa Society chapter events on campus Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23-24.

Talitha Washington, a professor of mathematics at Clark Atlanta University, will be a key part of these events.

“It is always enriching and memorable to interact with someone who is at the top of their field, be it a musical virtuoso or an MVP professional athlete,” says Bryan Shader, a UW mathematics professor and interim head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Dr. Washington is among the top in the field of data science, and she uses her expertise to empower others and improve communities.”

Shader, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, organized the events and proposed Washington as the guest speaker.

“The University of Wyoming was selected by the national Phi Beta Kappa chapter to host Dr. Washington as a visiting scholar,” says Joy Landeira, president of the UW chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and head of the UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

Washington is director of the Atlanta University Center Data Science Initiative and an affiliate faculty member at Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. She is lead principal investigator of the National Data Science Alliance, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Washington is president of the Association for Women in Mathematics and has research interests in applied mathematics, dynamical systems, nonstandard finite difference schemes, data science, artificial intelligence and education.

Washington also is a former program director at NSF who worked in the Convergence Accelerator in the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. Previously, in the Division of Undergraduate Education, she led the development, implementation and management of NSF’s first Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, co-writing two solicitations awarding $85 million.

Washington completed her undergraduate studies in mathematics at Spelman College and studied abroad at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Mexico. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics, both from the University of Connecticut.

There will be three events open to UW faculty, staff and students, and the public.

The schedule is as follows:

-- April 23, 1:30-2:45 p.m., Room 129 of the Classroom Building. Washington will be part of a panel discussion titled “Empowering Rural States Through Data Science.” The discussion will be led by Jeff Hamerlinck, associate director of UW’s School of Computing, and will include Tim Robinson, a UW professor of statistics; Lars Kotthoff, a UW associate professor of computer science; Silvia Ochoa, a UW alumna and global head of digital transformation for Coca-Cola International; Keivan Monfared, a UW alumnus and senior data scientist at Quora; and Daniel Peterson, a UW alumnus and senior applied scientist at Amazon. This event is partially sponsored by UW’s Center for Rural Community Resilience and Innovation. Light refreshments will be available outside Room 129 starting at 1 p.m.

-- April 23, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Room 129 of the Classroom Building. Washington will give a presentation titled “The Mathematics of the Movie ‘Hidden Figures.’” Washington’s teaser for the talk is: What’s the mathematics that Katharine Johnson used to send John Glenn into orbit and bring him back safely? Who was the mathematician that created the mathematics in the “Hidden Figures” Hollywood movie? Come and uncover the equations created by Johnson during the Space Race and how the mathematical consultant, Rudy Horne, created the mathematics for the movie. A reception, beginning at 4:30 p.m., will be held outside Room 129.

-- April 24, 9-10 a.m., Agriculture Building auditorium. Washington will hold a question-and-answer session for students during a session titled “Career Opportunities in Data Science.” Light refreshments will be available outside the auditorium from 8:40-9 a.m. This event is partially sponsored by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences’ Student Service Center.

Washington’s visit is sponsored by the UW chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the UW School of Computing, the UW Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the UW Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

For more information, go to www.uwyo.edu/pbk or email pbk@uwyo.edu.

About Phi Beta Kappa Society 

Phi Beta Kappa has been one of the most respected academic societies in the world for more than 200 years. Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William & Mary. Within a decade, chapters arose at Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth.

The Wyoming chapter received its charter in 1940 and, today, 293 colleges and universities in America meet the strict qualifications for hosting a chapter. Each year, UW faculty and administrators elect to membership fewer than one-tenth of the leading scholars of UW’s senior class, candidates for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. For more information about UW’s Phi Beta Kappa, visit www.uwyo.edu/pbk.

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