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Rising Stars

Our rising stars are young, up-and-coming mathematicians which are already exhibiting promising potential & providing outstanding contributions for the math community.

Robert Walker

Graduate Student
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Q: What is your personal and educational background?

A: I hail from Urbana, Illinois, from a working-class family, raised by a single mother. I went to undergrad at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, majoring in both math and philosophy. I am a Ph.D candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, advised by Karen Ellen Smith. I am formerly an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and am currently a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow. I will graduate in 2018.


Q: Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

A: As an undergrad, the summer research component of programs such as Ronald E. McNair Scholars did a lot to kindle my passion for advanced mathematical study. I received mentorship from three Illinois math professors in conducting research projects: Matthew Ando, Bruce Reznick, and Andy Schultz. My project under Andy eventually led to a thirteen-month collaboration that culminated in a joint publication in the Journal of Number Theory. The empowerment I felt in doing research sold me on aspiring to be a mathematician.


Q: Please share any words of wisdom/inspiration or anything you would like to promote.

A: To undergraduates, my advice is to participate in research programs such as McNair Scholars or MSRI-UP. Your research mentors can write strong letters in support of applications both for graduate schools and for fellowships from, e.g., the Hertz Foundation, the Ford Foundation, or the National Science Foundation. To graduate students, I would additionally suggest trusting your mathematical taste for what techniques and problems excite you. Also, run your own race, at a pace you’re comfortable with. To anyone, as far as your academic writing (e.g., application essays, preprint drafts), save copies in more than one place!

April Harry

Recent Ph.D. in Statistics
Purdue University

When I began college as a Deciding major at Xavier University of Louisiana, I had no idea what subject I wanted to pursue. However, the moment I took my first undergraduate-level Calculus class, I started to feel a pull in the direction of the mathematical sciences. The superb faculty and staff in Xavier’s mathematics department helped to cement my decision to major in math. It was their encouragement that lead me to attend summer research programs, and ultimately to attend graduate school.

My Xavier mentors also introduced me to the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) program. Because of EDGE, my support network expanded drastically. I was now connected to individuals at every level—from tenured professors, to post docs, to fellow graduate students—all invested in my success.

I am proud to say that in December 2017 I became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Statistics from Purdue University. The wealth of advice and encouragement that my EDGE and Xavier networks have offered throughout this journey was absolutely crucial.

Currently, I’m a fellow at Insight Data Science in Seattle, where I’m learning to leverage my skills in statistics and machine learning to create useful products with industry applications. Wherever my career in the mathematical sciences leads me next, my own experiences remind me of the importance of paying it forward. I look forward to supporting the next generation of students the way so many others have supported me.

Tai-Danae Bradley

Graduate Student
CUNY Graduate Center

I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. As a kid, I had many different interests – music, sports, art – but I came into mathematics much later in life. I attended The City College of New York for my undergraduate education and played on the women’s basketball team in my first two years. I hadn’t decided on a major, but I’ve always liked science and figured I’d use it to forge a career in athletics.

But that changed in my second year! I had a phenomenal teacher for Calculus III.

He had (and still has!) an extraordinary gift for explaining complex ideas in easy ways. I had never heard math spoken with such clarity and insight and – more strikingly – with such humility. I felt as though I had been granted access into a world which was, until then, completely invisible to me. I was – and still am – enamored by how mathematics is so expertly woven into the world around us. That’s when I decided to major in math and physics. It was such an exciting time, and that excitement still hasn’t worn off!

I’m now a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center working in algebraic topology and applied category theory. In my free time I enjoy sharing mathematics through my blog Math3ma and, more recently, through PBS Infinite Series on YouTube.

John Urschel

Graduate Student
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

When I was a kid, I loved doing puzzles books. I had no idea that what I was doing was math. My mother, though, recognized a talent in me and became determined to nurture it. Education was important to her. She had grown up in a rough part of Cincinnati and had been the first person in her family to go to college. As a single mother, she wanted more opportunities for me. So she encouraged me, buying me workbooks, racing me in Sudoku, and spending countless hours playing games with me, without ever letting on that she was cultivating my reasoning, logic, and mathematical skills. I was a good but indifferent math student in high school. It wasn’t until I got to Penn State that I realized that I had an aptitude for math — and, more important, a strong drive to learn. One of my professors, Vadim Kaloshin, introduced me to mathematical research and mentored me through my first paper. He gave me Arnold’s Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics and patiently answered my questions as I struggled through it. It was extremely difficult, but making my way through that book made me a better mathematician. Doing mathematical research reconnected me to that first love of discovery and problem-solving that I had felt as a kid — the surge of satisfaction and excitement that I felt when I had figured out something on my own and understood it deeply. There is no better feeling.