Pacific Professor Nancy Neudauer Leads Math Workshop in Africa for Women
Pacific University Professor Nancy Neudauer recently returned from South Africa, where she organized and administered an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences workshop titled “Women in Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications.”
Neudauer is a three-time recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award recipient who has used the grants to develop AIMS locations in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana and Cameroon.
The workshop’s primary purposes were to help develop a network of African women with common mathematical interests and to increase the visibility of women in mathematics to African students, researchers and professors.
The Neudauer-led workshop held Jan. 23-25 featured talks by women about their research on a number of topics, including graph theory, combinatorics, computer science, and discrete optimization.
More than 60 participants attended the workshop, 38 of which were AIMS students. AIMS is a network of centers for post-graduate training, research and public engagement in mathematical sciences.
Two Pacific undergraduate students, Brenna Calmer ’18 and Auli’i Fisher '18, attended the workshop and gave talks on their senior capstone research. Both described the workshop a life-changing experience.
"It was pretty remarkable," Calmer said. "I loved that all the conference participants were together in one classroom for presentations and group discussions. Even though we all come from unique backgrounds and have our own perspectives, we are all connected by a common passion for mathematics."
Calmer's presentation, "Symmetry and Structure: characterizing graphs by automorphisms and fixing numbers," explored concepts from algebra and graph theory, specifically how to use automorphism groups and fixing numbers of finite simple graphs to describe structural complexity and symmetry properties of various classes of graphs.
"This was my first time presenting research at a conference, and it gave me a much-needed boost of confidence," she said. "Academic conferences at large institutions can sometimes feel a bit intimidating or impersonal, but the environment at the AIMS conference was friendly and supportive."
Calmer's experience in South Africa solidified her decision to pursue a master's degree in math, and she applied to Portland State University soon after returning from the conference. She has been accepted and will begin this fall and work as a graduate teaching assistant.
"I cannot wait to see where math continues to take me," she said.