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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

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Jean Pierre Mutanguha

Jean Pierre Mutanguha

Postdoctoral Fellow

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics


I am from Rwanda and grew up/lived in the city of Kigali for most of my childhood. In 2011, I moved to the United States for my undergraduate and postgraduate studies: Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, OK (BSc) and University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR (MSc, PhD). Right now, I’m in my first postdoctoral position in Bonn, Germany. 


I must admit that my memory isn’t the best, so I cannot remember the moment when I realized I wanted to be a mathematician. When I chose to major in math, a crucial factor was my belief that it would involve the least amount of essay/report writing. Years later, I find that reasoning very amusing and misguided since writing is a significant component of math research. As it fortunately turns out, I do enjoy writing when it is about things I am interested in! It also goes without saying that I owe a lot to my math teachers/professors who have shared their joy for the subject with me and patiently cultivated my interests.


I am very proud of my doctoral thesis even if it is somewhat a niche result in my field. I worked on the problem for four years and, in that time, I see-sawed between thinking it was solvable or impossible. At the start of my final year in grad school, I was ready and happy to graduate with several partial results. In the eleventh hour, something clicked and all the pieces came together in a rather surprising and satisfying fashion.


As for my personal life, I am proud of how I have managed to take setbacks and disappointments with a positive attitude. I have always made the most with what I have and I hope I continue to do so. I am also proud to share my journey with you. If there is a chance this profile will encourage someone else to pursue a career in math, then I think it is worth leaving my comfort zone to participate in this. My parting advice is not specific mathematics but it has been fundamental to how I navigate the world. Do not invest all expectations in one sole plan; instead, keep an open mind to other possibilities. This has really helped me stay optimistic in the face of rejections. Although a rejection is always disappointing, it is less devastating when you have an alternative ready to go!