Notre Dame hosts Midwest Women in Mathematics symposium

Author: Shadia Ajam


Sister Kathleen Cannon gives the opening
remarks for the symposium

This past Saturday (Apr. 5), the Department of Mathematics hosted the Midwest Women in Math Symposium in the Jordan Hall of Science The purpose of the symposium is to strengthen the network of female mathematicians in the Midwest and encourage collaborations and mentoring relationships.

The itinerary consisted of short research talks by graduate students and faculty, a keynote address, and a problem solving session. The symposium included parallel sessions in: algebra, dynamical systems, geometry and topology, logic, mathematical biology, partial differential equations, and statistics.

The symposium was organized by Notre Dame graduate students Katie Ansaldi, Amy Buchmann, Weiye (Betty) Chen, as well as and Julia Knight, professor of mathematics and director of graduate studies, Fang Liu, assistant professor of applied and computational  mathematics and statistics, and Sonja Mapes, research assistant professor of  mathematics

“Math is still a very male dominated field so it’s nice for women to have the chance to interact with other female mathematicians,” said Buchmann. “This is just the second time that it (the Midwest Symposium) has happened, so we’re hoping that someone else will want to host the conference next year so we can make this an annual tradition.”

The first Women in Math Symposium was an idea that started in Southern California. Yen Twong, a graduate student in math at the University of Illinois-Chicago decided she wanted to bring that idea to the Midwest last year and organized the conference at UIC with the help of Buchmann. The conference this year welcomed 150 participants.

 “I really like having conferences that are multidisciplinary and particularly for women because it’s very comforting to meet other women who are in the field,” said Carolyn Troha, a graduate student from the University of Kentucky.

The conference covered a broad spectrum of topics in math in order to make it more accessible.  The participants were composed of a mix of graduate students and faculty with the purpose of tiered mentoring. Graduate students could talk to post docs, post docs could talk to junior faculty, and junior faculty could talk to senior faculty.

“As a younger professor, I am currently experiencing several of the situations which can lead to women "dropping out" of the research community, such as having children, finding jobs with a spouse who is also in academia, etc.  Attending conferences such as WIMS allows me to talk to other women about these issues and get advice or sometimes confirmation that the choices I'm making are reasonable, as well as tell my story to women who are just now encountering these issues” said Mapes.

To learn more about this year’s symposium visit