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Black History Month
2018 Honoree

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Wilfrid Gangbo

Wilfrid Gangbo

Professor of Mathematics

University of California, Los Angeles


I was born in Porto Novo, the capital of the Republic of Benin, a country in West Africa. I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies in Mathematics, at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It is often very difficult for ourselves to know what exactly led us to like Mathematics so much and when exactly this happened. When I was in elementary school, I learned from my elder sisters that Mathematics is the most respected subject in their middle school and people good at it, draw a lot of attention and respect. Later, I myself discovered that Mathematics is the area where the truth is less subjective. I did not fully realize what it meant to be a researcher in mathematics until I found myself working on my Ph.D. dissertation.

It is hard for most of us to produce good research in mathematics and when we are rewarded by what we believe to be an outstanding discovery, our happiness usually lasts no more than few days. Indeed, after solving a problem, we could either realize that it took us an unreasonably too long before getting a solution which turned out to be very simple to reach. Or in the worst case, someone else has already gotten a similar result which we missed,  because it was stated, using terminologies we were not very comfortable with. Despite these constant frustrations, over the years, we may come to realize that our contribution to mathematics has not been completely unnoticed. Hearing that someone in the mathematical science community, who is neither one of my former students nor one of my former postdoc, is interested in my work, makes me proud.

The support of my family provides a stability, often taken for granted. This support is the backbone on which we build what we hope to later be viewed as a successful professional life.