### Toka Diagana

**Where are you from?**

I was born and raised in Kaédi, Mauritania, a city on the border between Mauritania and Senegal. I attended the “Lycée de Kaédi,” which at that time was among the top high schools in all of Mauritania. Most of my teachers back then were either French or Moroccans, and I credit them with giving me a solid grounding in mathematics. Upon completing high school with a focus on mathematics, the government of Mauritania awarded me a scholarship to study mathematical physics at the “Faculté des Sciences de Tunis” in Tunisia. While in Tunis, I had the good fortune of studying mathematics with some of the finest top educators in Tunisia. Prof. Abdenabi Achour, one of the most prominent mathematicians in Tunisia, taught me real analysis, while Prof. Said Zarati instructed me in general and algebraic topology. Prior to completing my bachelor’s degree in Tunisia, I met with Prof. Achour, who strongly suggested that I apply for admission to a university in France to earn a PhD in mathematics. In the end, I decided to enroll at the prestigious Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1 after receiving admission to several other top French institutions. And while in France, I had the privilege of studying mathematics under some of the world’s most renowned mathematicians, including Prof. Etienne Ghys of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon and the French Academy of Sciences. After completing my Ph.D. in mathematics from Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1, France in 1999, I joined the Mathematics Department faculty at Howard University as a Lecturer in August of 2000. I was promoted to full professor with tenure at Howard University in July 2007.

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

My elementary school teacher, Mr. Nadim Abiad, was the first person to inspire my interest in mathematics. As simple as it may sound, his method of instruction entailed assigning difficult math problems from a textbook by J. Auriol and M. Séguier, which was used in virtually every elementary school in French-speaking Africa. As a result, we had to perform mathematical operations that were not typically covered in standard elementary school curricula, such as solving systems of equations. This mode of thinking accompanied me to middle school, where it aroused my interest in mathematics and inspired me to pursue a career in the field. Therefore, I owe my enthusiasm for mathematics to the inspiring teachers I have had the good fortune to study under.

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

I have written on a wide range of mathematical topics in my over 130 research articles and seven books. These topics include (stochastic) differential and partial differential equations, p-adic dynamical systems, functional analysis, and operator theory. Still, I consider my most notable achievement to be directing the doctoral dissertations of eight (8) African Americans, two of whom are women, who are now employed in the academic, defense, and industrial sectors. I want to think that I played a role in reversing the historic underrepresentation of African Americans in the STEM fields.

**What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) regarding your personal life?**

My family’s unflinching backing.

**Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.**

“Patience” and “passion” are both key components in what drives me. This reminds me of the following Chinese proverb: “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”