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Black History Month
2022 Honoree

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Rising Stars: Tianna Burke & Christian McRoberts

Rising Stars: Tianna Burke & Christian McRoberts










Tianna Burke, PhD Student, Auburn University


What is your personal and educational background?

I was born in the Bronx, NY and raised in Stony Point, NY with my mom, dad, two brothers, and sister. I went to Howard University to study mathematics. After Howard, I bounced around for a while (Boston University for a semester and a postbac at Iowa State University) before I started a PhD program in mathematics at Auburn University where I am currently a second-year student.


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

Math has been my favorite subject for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until college that I realized what exactly in math I wanted to do. In my freshman and sophomore years, I took Ordinary Differential Equations and Topics in Applied Mathematics, and I got to see mathematical models and how they are used to tackle real world problems. Since then, I’ve been mainly interested in Applied Math.  Additionally, the summer after my postbac, I got to participate in the Dynamics and data in the Covid-19 pandemic workshop at the American Institute of Mathematics. During this program, I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had while doing research and the guidance I got from the mentors was very helpful. These experiences solidified for me that I want to do applied math research, and at the moment, modeling of infectious diseases.

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

Don’t be afraid to go for the opportunities that excite you. You may be told no, and that’s ok, but don’t count yourself out before you even try.



Christian McRoberts, PhD Student, Iowa State University

I’m from Chicago, IL, and I am the youngest of three children. I graduated from Morgan Park High School in 2014 and went on to graduate from Morehouse College in 2018. I currently attend Iowa State University where I am working with Bernard Lidicky on graph coloring problems.

One of the first memories I have that cultivated my interest in Mathematics was being a student in Sara Harton’s AP Calculus course. I always displayed an aptitude for math, but it was here that the first person promoted my mathematical development outside the classroom. In her absence, I was given the material to teach the class; and this is how I knew I wanted to teach advanced mathematics – which requires a Ph.D. At Morehouse, I was surrounded by math faculty who expected nothing less than success from me. They believed in me to achieve my goals and poured into my mathematical and personal development. I will always remember and be grateful to Drs. Farouk Brania, Shelby Wilson and Ulrica Wilson. At Iowa State, I was cared for in ways I never knew I needed to be cared for. Dr. Michael Young has invested so much time and tangible material into my success; my Ph.D. will be just as much his as it is mine.

Words of wisdom…I could say you’re amazing no matter what. I could say keep going in the journey because your success is on the other side. However, that’s all cliché and boring.; so, I will say this: you’re a mathematician [maybe] second and a person first. Do not let the math you can or cannot do define you. You are so much greater than the math you can produce and what other people think you can create mathematically. Live for yourself.