A national math conference on Pomona College’s campus this month will serve to accomplish multiple goals: to strengthen the mathematical research community, to uplift researchers in number theory and algebraic geometry, and to honor the contributions of Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Edray Goins.
The two-day conference for students, faculty and administrators, “Strengthening Communities in Research Mathematics,” is organized by Ami Radunskaya, Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics, along with two of Goins’ former Ph.D. students from Purdue University, where Goins previously taught. Together, they applied for and received a National Science Foundation grant to hold this event, which will take place from February 17-18.
“A large portion of the conference will be research talks, mainly by mathematicians for whom Dr. Goins has had a significant impact,” says Radunskaya. “The impetus for the conference was to honor Professor Goins’ contributions on his 50th birthday, both research wise and as a mentor.”
A specific goal of the conference is to enable mathematicians from traditionally underrepresented groups to flourish. Workshops will address the graduate school admission process and navigating the discipline as a member of an underrepresented group. Faculty will also address mentoring students from underrepresented groups and how to engage undergraduates in their research.
For both Goins and Radunskaya, helping underrepresented groups succeed in the field of mathematics is a driving force in their work.
Goins spends his summers engaging underrepresented students in math research. He currently runs a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation titled Pomona Research in Mathematics Experience (PRiME).
Goins is also the lead for updating the Mathematicians of the African Diaspora database (also known as the MAD Pages), a resource dedicated to promoting and highlighting the contributions of members of the African diaspora to mathematics, especially contributions to current mathematical research.
“The title of the conference really matches up with exactly what I want to do and what has been my life’s goal,” says Goins. As an undergraduate and a graduate student, he “never felt a part of the math community” and “always felt like an outsider.” Now, opening wide the doors of the math community is his central focus and passion.
At the conference, Goins looks forward to seeing “the breadth of the types of impact” that he has had on people. ”I am a mathematician,” he says. “But I’ve done a lot of work in things like math history, social justice, applied mathematics. I really am curious to see with the talks and presentations what that really means to people.”
Radunskaya is president of the EDGE Foundation, a national program designed to increase the number of women students, particularly minority women, who successfully complete graduate programs in the mathematical sciences.
“Through the conference, we can highlight locally, right at our institution, what the challenges are in today’s landscape as far as getting more people into STEM and math in particular because there still are lots of challenges. The numbers are not good, both for women and for people from underrepresented groups,” says Radunskaya. ”They’re not going up; they’re stagnating or even going down a bit.”
“We can showcase that work locally and say, ‘We at Pomona College are really trying to do something.’”