A Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration Of Mathematicians


Laura Sanchez and Eva Saliz Mexican Folklorico dancers with Grupo Amistad sponsored by University of the Incarnate Word helped the Randolph Hispanic Council kick off a Hispanic Heritage Month event.U.S. Air Force photo/Steve Thurow

For the U.S., Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 each year. Those dates are set aside for recognizing the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx folks, as well as celebrating their history and culture.

The month wouldn’t be complete without recognition and celebration of Hispanic and Latinx individuals in the mathematical sciences. In 2016, the Lathisms website was founded in order to highlight the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx mathematicians. Since then, online calendars of mathematicians has been created for the heritage month. On each day between September 15 and October 15, the biography of a different mathematician is revealed, along with information about their research, teaching and other service contributions.

This year, the project’s founders decided to focus on graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and early career mathematicians. Here are just a few of the mathematicians showcased on the 2018 calendar:

  • Selenne Bañuelos is an assistant professor of mathematics at California State University Channel Islands. Her research interests include “the fields of differential and difference equations and dynamical systems and its applications to mathematical biology,” her calendar entry notes. She has researched multi-patch migration models, the dynamics of sleep, and epidemiological problems. Her commitment to increasing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education opportunities for women and other historically underrepresented minorities is reflected in her connections with the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). While working on her doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Southern California, Bañuelos became one of the founding members of the SACNAS chapter at USC. She now co-advises the SACNAS chapter at California State University Channel Islands. Over the years, she has also won awards for her teaching and grant funding for her work with undergraduate researchers. Bañuelos, who is the child of Mexican immigrants and a mother of two, also serves as a mentor for the Math Alliance. That national alliance seeks to “build a new American community in the mathematical and statistical sciences” by pursuing the goal that ”every underrepresented or underserved American student with the talent and the ambition has the opportunity to earn a doctoral degree in a mathematical science.”
  • Iván Contreras, who was born in Colombia, is a visiting assistant professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts. His research focuses on the intersection of geometry, topology and physics. While pursuing his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, Contreras conducted research on quantum mechanics on graphs and CW complexes. He was awarded the Illinois Geometry Lab prize for exemplary research. The results of his research were also presented in conferences at Harvard, UCLA, the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego and more. In addition to his own research pursuits, which include contributions to a two-dimensional string theory called the Poisson sigma model, Contreras also mentors undergraduate and high school students in math.
  • Imelda Trejo, who was born in Tasquillo, Mexico, is a doctoral student in mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Her dissertation research focuses on the interactions between immune and bone cells that occur as fractures heal. Trejo discovered her mathematical abilities while working for her family’s business at a local market in Tasquillo, Mexico. Later, while she was in college at the University of Hidalgo, Mexico, she worked on x-ray computer tomography research that helped her realize her passion for solving real-world problems using applied mathematics. Prior to embarking on her doctoral studies in Texas, Trejo earned her master’s degree in applied mathematics at the Research Center of Mathematics (CIMAT) in Guanajuato, Mexico. Upon completion of her doctorate from UTA, Trejo intends to pursue a postdoctoral research position, followed by a faculty position in the U.S. or Mexico. Trejo, who, according to her profile, is eager to teach and mentor students, as well as contribute to the “advancement of state-of-the-art bio-mathematical modeling and numerical solutions of ordinary and partial differential equations,” has already won numerous awards. Those include the 2008 Sotero Prieto Award from the Sociedad Matemática Mexicana ‍(Mexican Mathematical Society) for the best bachelor’s research in Mexico, a full scholarship from the Mexican Science Foundation (CONACYT) for her graduate study and two UTA scholarships recognizing her excellence in the study of math.

Check out the Lathisms website for the 2018 calendar of mathematician profiles along with the Lathisms podcast series, which is a new addition for this year.

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