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Black History Month
2017 Honoree

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Talea Mayo

Talea Mayo

Assistant Professor

Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering University of Central Florida

Hi there! I am a computational mathematician, with special interests in the modeling and simulation of hurricane storm surges. The models I use can generally be described as coastal ocean models, and are also used to model tides and waves. What’s so interesting about this is that I grew up in very land locked, very dry, Colorado. I didn’t see the ocean until my senior year of college, and for a long time I didn’t even know what a hurricane was. I got very familiar with these storms when I was a student at my alma mater, Grambling State University. It’s in northern Louisiana, far enough from the coast to avoid significant impacts of the storms, but close enough to allow me to understand the devastation and pique my interest.

When I enrolled at GSU, I wasn’t sure which major to choose. Part of me wanted to be a lawyer, but I enrolled in upper level math classes because math had always been so interesting to me. A summer at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute helped me understand that a career in computational and applied mathematics would allow me to use math to study any of the many science problems I had thought about. I discovered the Computational and Applied Mathematics program at the University of Texas at Austin, and began my career.

To date, one of the academic accomplishments I’m most proud of is completing my PhD. I had a really hard time both academically and socially when I began at UT. It was the first time I can remember that I seriously doubted myself and my ability to accomplish something I really wanted to do. When I finished my dissertation, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I still remember that night and a very tearful walk to my car. Someway, somehow, I had completed a five-year journey that at times I never imagined I could. One of the personal accomplishments I’m most proud of is folding all my laundry this week. Seriously.

If I could offer a word of advice to others, it’s that you become what you believe. You have to believe in yourself. It’s not always easy or instant, and neither is accomplishing your goals, but if you believe in yourself and put in the work to match, you can be whoever and do whatever you want.