Mathematician Ami Radunskaya Wins 2016 AAAS Mentor Award

Ami Radunskaya – a professor of mathematics at Pomona College, president-elect of the Association for Women in Mathematics, and director of the national Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Program– was chosen as the winner of the 2016 AAAS Mentor Award for launching “dramatic education and research changes leading to an increase in the number of female doctorates in the field of mathematics.”

Ami Radunskaya | Courtesy Pomona College

AAAS noted that Radunskaya “has been a powerful force supporting students – especially women and women of color – to earn Ph.D. degrees in mathematics.” The association noted further that Radunskaya “commits an enormous amount of time and energy to every student who crosses her path, teaching each one to believe in herself or himself.”

Specifically, Radunskaya has helped 82 of her mentees to earn Ph.D. degrees in mathematics. That cohort includes 80 females as well as two males. Of her 82 doctorate-level mentees, 23 are African-American and five are Latino. Most are now employed at colleges and universities, and a few are working in the government or private sectors, AAAS noted.

This year’s AAAS Mentor Award winner has also been a primary champion for the EDGE Program, which helps to build a broader community of diverse mathematicians. “She has continuously challenged the traditional image of the professional mathematician,” said Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. “She has uplifted and showcased the full spectrum of mathematical talent.”

David W. Oxtoby, president of Pomona College said, in nominating Radunskaya for the AAAS Mentor Award: “She truly believes that everyone can learn mathematics and be successful at it. Not only does she understand the difficulties of succeeding when invisible obstacles make for an unwelcoming climate, but she has the ability to mitigate those obstacles and teach others to do the same. She develops life-long relationships with her students and colleagues and continues her support at every stage of their careers. She works tirelessly to provide venues for underrepresented scholars to showcase their research and continue networking, even after they have obtained their degrees.”

Radunskaya earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. degree, also in mathematics, from Stanford University. Her many awards and honors have included the Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching at Pomona College; service as the Falconer Lecturer at the Mathematical Association of America’s Mathfest 2010; Pomona’s Irvine Distinguished Faculty Mentor award; and Stanford’s Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her extensive list of scholarly research articles and lectures have often focused on the mathematical challenges associated with treating medical problems such as cancer.

In addition to being a member of AAAS, Radunskaya is a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Advisory Committee on Diversity. She has organized special sessions celebrating diversity at national meetings, and she has worked with the membership committee to include more mathematicians from underrepresented groups as speakers and symposium organizers. As a member of the Executive Committee and now as President-elect of the Association for Women in Mathematics, Radunskaya has worked to increase the diversity of leadership within that group, too. With Trachette Jackson of the University of Michigan, Radunskaya in 2013 co-organized a research workshop at the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications called WhAM!: Women in Applied Mathematics. She further organized and procured funding for four Women in Math in Southern California (WiMSoCAL) research symposia for women, which were designed to encourage collaboration and networking between graduate students, early career mathematicians, and senior women.

“Professor Radunskaya is a true national leader in increasing the success rate of women and underrepresented minorities in mathematics,” Oxtoby said. “She has shown the world that mathematics can have many different faces. By providing role models to aspiring mathematicians and statisticians, she has made many students believe that they can do it, too.”

The AAAS Mentor Award honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students, including women, minorities, and persons with disabilities, pursuing Ph.D.’s in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and who have demonstrated scholarship, activism, and community building on behalf of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The award includes a $5,000 prize and a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting as well as reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the meeting.

The award will be bestowed upon Dr. Radunskaya during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel. Annual Meeting registration and additional information on the 2016 program is currently available online