Introducing Vanessa!

Woman holding a flower bouquet

Vanessa Rivera Quiñones at her defense in April 2019. Welcome to the blog! Photo courtesy of Vanessa Rivera Quiñones

Starting this month, Vanessa Rivera Quiñones (@MissVRiveraQ) will be co-editing the blog with me! She received her Ph.D. in mathematics this year from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and she’s currently looking for a job in Belgium.

Last year, Vanessa wrote three guest posts on the AMS Graduate Student Blog: “Communicating Mathematics to a Broader Audience,” “Towards Embracing Diverse Mathematical Communities” and “Staying Organized to Improve Productivity.” She is currently in the process of launching her own math blog.

Vanessa brings to this blog her broad interests in such areas as mathematical biology, data science, interdisciplinary research, science communication and teaching. She’s also passionate about exploring the intersection of those fields with equity, inclusion and social justice.

Vanessa says she views math blogging as “a nifty way to get ideas out there” and discuss “topics that don’t come up as naturally” within the mathematical community. She’s eager to jump into writing about a wide range of topics, including those outside of her areas of expertise and finds writing about different topics to be a great way to learn more about them.

Her doctoral research, which involved collaborating with a biology laboratory, focused on using differential equations and other mathematical tools to study the disease dynamics of the Daphnia-Metschnikowia system. She also participated in several other research programs. During a Research Experiences for Graduate Students (also at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) opportunity, she studied “Variable Annuities with Guaranteed Minimum Benefits.” She also participated in the Research in Industrial Projects for Students program at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) where her group (sponsored by Standard and Poor’s) researched ‘Pricing and Risk in the Credit Markets: Investigation of Credit Default Swaps.” Her project at the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics was the ‘Study of Glaucoma Change Probability for Open-angle Glaucoma.”

Vanessa was born in Puerto Rico and she went to college at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics with a minor in finance. She says that she didn’t have a lot of mathematical role models at the beginning of her undergraduate studies, but when she got involved with SACNAS and other organizations aimed at underrepresented students, that really helped.

It’s critical to “look for stories that portray a lot of people that do math,” Vanessa says. She finds that while today’s students have access to certain websites (such as “Mathematically Gifted & Black”) and other resources that weren’t available when she started her undergrad, it’s still challenging for many of them to find role models. She says that meeting mentors with different backgrounds not often seen in mathematics can help students find the representation they crave. Some ways she thinks instructors can do this are by opening up with students about different aspects of their identities outside of mathematics and by encouraging students to connect with mathematicians of varied backgrounds at conferences.

Just a few of Vanessa’s writing plans include creating blog tours similar to this one and highlighting blogs covering interdisciplinary, collaborative research. She also says she “would love to see more blogs about books aimed at the general audience and explaining mathematical concepts in an accessible way.”

“I admire a lot the work of Tai-Danae Bradley, Nicky Case Explorables, and MathMunch. I think as mathematics becomes more interdisciplinary, the efforts made by QUBES Hub with their blog of bringing together quantitative biology, mathematics, and education is another important contribution,” Vanessa says.

Outside of math, Vanessa enjoys dancing, drawing and Zumba.

Know about new blogs we haven’t covered yet or want us to take another look at one of your favorite blogs that hasn’t been discussed here in awhile? Please reach out in the comments or on Twitter!

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