Highlights

African Diaspora Joint Mathematics Workshop

MSRI - January 2022
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In 2019, MSRI piloted the African Diaspora Joint Mathematics Workshop (ADJOINT), a yearlong program that provides opportunities for U.S. mathematicians, especially those from the African diaspora, to form collaborations with distinguished African American research leaders on topics at the forefront of mathematical and statistical research. The program was renewed and expanded in 2020 and returned in 2021. 
 
Many programs intended to expand participation in STEM among members of historically marginalized communities focus on outreach to students, from elementary school to graduate school, but there are very few programs that center mathematical and statistical scientists further along in their research careers. ADJOINT’s participants range from postdoctorate researchers to tenured professors. ADJOINT allows researchers from underrepresented groups to focus on their work without the pressure and scrutiny they often feel to represent their race in a majority-white space. “It’s about both the research work and also the empowerment of knowing you aren’t the only one,” 2021 onsite director Jacqueline Hughes-Oliver says. “I wish I had had a program like this when I was a junior faculty member.”

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Participants in the 2020 ADJOINT program on Zoom

An especially timely topic for the 2020 program was the mathematics of the transmission dynamics and control of the 2019 novel coronavirus. Abba Gumel, a professor at Arizona State University, led a group of six researchers studying this topic. They have published a paper analyzing the benefits of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic testing for COVID-19, and their work at ADJOINT has influenced several other projects by members of the group exploring topics such as the efficacy of masks, disease dynamics in particular locations, and vaccine-derived herd immunity.
 
Ryan Hynd, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania, led a group studying Hamilton-Jacobi equations in high dimensions. They split into two subgroups. One of them, inspired by the pandemic, focused on optimal control of vaccine delivery. The other worked on identifying conditions in non-cooperative games such that a Nash equilibrium can be approximated by a constructive method.
 
Craig Sutton of Dartmouth College led a group in inverse spectral geometry, which seeks to understand what information about a manifold’s geometry can be gleaned from an associated list of numbers called its Laplace spectrum; informally, can you hear the shape of a drum?
 
Bonita Saunders, a mathematician at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, led a research group on validated numerical computations of mathematical functions, which researchers in several fields of science and software developers need to ensure the accuracy of their programs.
 
Tepper Gill of Howard University led a research group studying topics in analysis, partial differential equations, and mathematical physics on a recently-defined class of separable Banach spaces. In addition to publications, their work at ADJOINT spurred the creation of a special session on related work at the 2021 Mathematical Congress of the Americas.
 
In 2021, ADJOINT started with an intensive two-week research session, which took place at satellite sites across the U.S. due to ongoing pandemic travel restrictions. In addition to individual research group meetings, virtual networking opportunities allowed further mingling amongst the four research groups and between ADJOINT and the MSRI Undergraduate Research Program (MSRI-UP) for rising college juniors primarily from underrepresented groups. In future years, ADJOINT and MSRI-UP will take place in person at MSRI at overlapping times to encourage mentorship and collaboration between these groups. “One nice benefit of the program,” says Naiomi Cameron, 2020 onsite director, “is the growing of a mathematical community and the reinforcement of interconnectedness among African American mathematicians.”