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February 9th

Carla Cotwright
Hardy-Apfel IT Fellow
U.S. Social Security Administration

Background: Where are you from?

I am from Los Angeles, CA.

An experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
  • As a sophomore and junior in high school, I participated in a Pre-Engineering Summer Institute hosted by the Minority Engineering Program (MEP). During this experience, I received a travel stipend to ride the bus to the UCLA campus for daily enrichment courses in mathematics and engineering. We took field trips. (I took my first trip to NASA at Edwards AFB. I saw a space shuttle.) We learned from grad students. (I recall learning about transformations.) The exposure I received from this experience solidified my pursuit of a career in STEM.

  • Once I began grad school, I was able to work with a black woman professor. The first black woman Ph.D. mathematician I’d ever met. She encouraged me to pursue a degree in pure mathematics. I never saw myself as a mathematician because of the many struggles I experienced as an undergrad. So I completed a thesis under her guidance and changed my direction from Math Ed to Pure Math.

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

    Applying for the AMS Congressional Fellowship and not being selected. Then I took several years to prepare myself for the fellowship and reapplied for the fellowship. I was awarded the fellowship. I focused in a way I never had before to achieve this goal.

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

    Overcoming academic disqualification in undergrad

    Any words of wisdom/inspiration.

    Don’t let your past failures keep you from future success. – it’s taken me some years to be comfortable in my God-given abilities. I was kicked out of college because of my grades. I had to work extremely hard to overcome the deficit in my GPA to regain my status as a regularly matriculating student. I had to access the help of those willing to help me “get my act together” and “get back on track”. After 8 years, I graduated from Cal State University – Long Beach with my BS in mathematics.

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