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February 15th


Talithia Williams
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics
Harvey Mudd College



Background: Where are you from?

I’m originally from Columbus, Georgia. I graduated from Columbus High School and went to Spelman College where I majored in mathematics and minored in physics. My Spelman professors encouraged me to go to graduate school, so I went to Howard University for a masters in mathematics and then to Rice University for a Ph.D. in statistics.


An experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
  • In high school, I would take Mathematics Competition exams (mostly because I was allowed to miss class for 2 hours and it wasn’t for a grade!) After a few tries, I was one of a handful of students to actually made it to the next round. I remember being surprised because I’d never thought of myself as a “math person”. But the more math problems I did, the better I got at solving them. That was one of the first times I experienced the satisfaction that comes from solving challenging problems!

  • I spent three summers working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was mentored by the late Dr. Claudia Alexander. As an undergraduate student, she allowed me to imagine myself with a Ph.D. working at NASA. This was a vision I held on to, especially in graduate school when the work became difficult. Claudia’s example made me want to emulate her.


  • Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences.

    In 2014, I became the first African American woman to ever receive tenure at Harvey Mudd College.


    Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life.

    I have an amazingly supportive husband! And, I have three sons that were each delivered without any pain medication! (Not sure if that makes me “proud” or “crazy”!)


    Any words of wisdom/inspiration.

    Push past the pain. Anything worth having is worth working for.

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