Where are you from?
I was born in Indianapolis, IN but I grew up in Atlanta, GA. I come from a large family where I am the fourth oldest of nine children, my dad is the youngest of nine children, and my mom is the seventh oldest of twenty-one children. My maternal grandfather and grandmother were members of the Nation of Islam and transitioned to an understanding of Al-Islam with the transition of leadership under Imam Warith Deen Mohammed; and that is the community in which I was raised.
Growing up, my family was often called the math family because my mother and father both hold master’s degrees in mathematics, but also because many of my aunts and uncles specialize in math or computer science. I was blessed to attend Sister Clara Mohammed School and W.D. Mohammed High School in Atlanta from Pre-K through 12th grade, where some of my family members have taught. Particularly, my dad was my math teacher for my 8th grade year through my senior year. From a young age, I was taught that seeking education was an important struggle in the history of my ancestors. So, the question “Where am I from?” moves me to point out that I have been inspired by the works of many great heroes. To name a small subset of many, I think about Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Sister Clara Muhammed, Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), Imam W.D. Mohammed, and Muhammad Ali—the last two I was blessed to meet at their homes.
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
For my undergraduate studies, I attended Texas Southern University on scholarship through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. At the end of my freshman year, I cultivated my interest in the mathematical sciences during my first summer research opportunity in the mathematics department at Texas Southern University. This research experience was funded through the L.L. Clarkson Mathematical Research Experience. I worked, alongside my wife, under the mentorship of Dr. Willie Taylor and Dr. Robert Nehs, studying higher order Difference Equations. My wife and I won awards for this research, one of which was from NAM MATHFest in 2010.
After that research experience, I attended two math conferences that helped me discover my interest in the mathematical sciences. I attended NAM MATHFest and the Mathematical Field of Dreams Conference in 2010. This set me on a path to work closely with my professors at TSU to prepare for graduate studies in mathematics. This led me to complete undergraduate research opportunities at the University of Iowa, Rice University, the University of California-Berkeley Edge Program, and the Texas A&M University Bridge Program.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
My most proud accomplishment in regard to my career in the mathematical sciences is completing the bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree together with my wife as she completed her bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree, while raising a beautiful family of two daughters and one son–with outstanding support from community.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
My most proud accomplishment in regard to my personal life is marrying my amazing wife, Ruqiah Muhammad. Living in Atlanta, GA, I was blessed to meet her because she was raised and lived in Houston, TX. We met while in high school (at a conference), and we got married shortly after graduating from high school. Our spirits united have motivated me beyond measure.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
I was taught to constantly seek knowledge; I was taught that seeking knowledge was a requirement upon me. The journey to acquire knowledge required struggle, but with every difficulty there was growth and achievement.
“Education is the greatest tool for advancing society.” – Imam W.D. Mohammed
“To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness, and to defeat the very end of their being.” –Frederick Douglass