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Black History Month
2020 Honoree

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Bobby Wilson

Bobby Wilson

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

The University of Washington


Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. I graduated from Glendale High School in Glendale, AZ before transitioning to Morehouse College where I first discovered the concept of a mathematician. After graduating from Morehouse, I went on to get my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.


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

Throughout my childhood and as a young adult, I was lucky to have a series of teachers and professors who went out of their way to help nurture my mathematical curiosity/ability. Two specific examples are participating in the Putnam competition and participating in math research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) in college. Although I wasn’t an amazing Putnam competitor, I had a lot of fun thinking about hard math problems. Furthermore, REUs gave me some insight on what it was like to do research mathematics.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

My biggest accomplishment in my career has been the fact that I’ve been able to think about a wide variety of mathematics which I have found personally interesting with very intelligent people on, what I have perceived as, my own terms while maintaining employment.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

My biggest personal accomplishments have been my marriage to my wonderful wife, and that I’ve been able to be a positive (or at least nonnegative) influence on the lives of my four younger siblings and my parents.


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

I think it’s a natural tendency for people to want to compartmentalize/categorize ourselves and others. I would encourage people to, as they do in other aspects of life, to resist the tendency to compartmentalize yourself mathematically.

In general, at some point one must make decisions about which places they will want to spend their time working or studying. I would suggest prioritizing spaces where you feel most supported and has the highest chances of providing mentoring.