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Episode 67

Being a Woman in a Male Dominated Field with Professor Talithia Williams


Women of Color in a traditionally male dominated field is lonely uphill battle. Dr. Talithia Williams joins me today to share her story of a Black Woman in Mathematics.

Statistician Talithia Williams is an innovative, award-winning college professor, a host of the PBS NOVA documentary Zero to Infinity, co-host of the PBS NOVA series NOVA Wonders and a speaker whose popular TED Talk, “Own Your Body’s Data”, extols the value of statistics in quantifying personal health information. She demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways to excite students, parents, educators and the larger community about STEM education and its possibilities. In 2015, she won the Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member, which honors faculty members whose teaching is effective and extraordinary, and extends its influence beyond the classroom. It is this excellence that attracted the attention of online educational company The Great Courses, which selected Williams to produce “Learning Statistics: Concepts and Applications in R,” a series of lectures in which she provides tools to evaluate statistical data and determine if it’s used appropriately. She is the author of “Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics”, a full-color book highlighting the influence of women in the mathematical sciences in the last two millennia and has narrated several science documentary films including; Hindenburg: The New Evidence, Our Beautiful Planet, Secrets in our DNA, and the joint BBC and NOVA 5-part series Universe: Revealed.

Williams is a proud graduate of Spelman College (B.A., mathematics), Howard University (M.S., mathematics) and Rice University (M.A., Ph.D., statistics). Her research involves developing statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and applying them to problems in the environment. She’s worked at NASA, National Security Agency and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has partnered with the World Health Organization on research regarding cataract surgical rates in African countries. Faith and family round out a busy life that she shares with her husband and three amazing boys. Through her research and work in the community at large, she is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM in general and math in particular, rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated but, instead, a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country.

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