Mathematically Gifted & Black - Homepage

Black History Month
2022 Honoree

Back to Circle of Excellence
Pamela Williams

Pamela Williams

Project Manager


Where are you from?

I am from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is 75 miles northwest of Nashville, TN. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, I attended graduate school at Rice University in Houston, TX. Then, my career took me west to the San Francisco Bay Area before I headed back east to the Northern Virginia area.


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

That’s a difficult question. My interest in mathematical sciences was piqued at an early age.  I always had a love for mathematics and never seriously considered another major.  Well-meaning counselors and teachers encouraged me to pursue degrees in mathematics-related fields like accounting, education, and engineering.  However, I ignored their advice and majored in mathematics. 

Summer internships at AT&T Bell Laboratories led me to a PhD in Computational and Applied Mathematics. While interning, I discovered the thrill of writing software to solve complex problems.  There is nothing like the journey from a rough design to working software. There’s a myriad of frustrations along the way (e.g., bugs, core dumps, incorrect results, etc.) that is outweighed by the satisfaction of successfully executing software.



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

First, my team was a finalist for the 2015 Franz Edelman Prize awarded by the Institute for Operations Research and Mathematical Sciences (INFORMS) for a supply chain management project that overcame many obstacles on the way from R&D to implementation.

Second, I chaired the 2005 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference (, which provides opportunities for minorities and persons with disabilities to network and gain experience in presenting technical talks.


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

Besides earning my PhD, completing six marathons are my proudest accomplishments. A friend inspired me to train for a marathon, which meant transitioning from treadmill to road runs.  There were many nights and weekends that I didn’t feel like running but sticking to the plan helped me achieve goals that I never dreamed possible.  

As a bonus, I’ve debugged lots of code and developed creative solutions while on solo runs. 


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

Don’t be afraid of failure because it is through failure that you grow. Make learning a lifelong experience so that you can continue to develop personally and professionally.