2023 PLENARY SPEAKERS

Keshav Acharya
Keshav Acharya
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach Campus


On the Spectral Theory of Canonical Systems


Canonical systems are systems of first order differential equations which generalize Schrödinger, Jacobi, Dirac and Sturm-Liouville equations, fundamental equations in quantum mechanics. These systems play central role in the spectral theory of the operators induced from these equations as the systems realize arbitrary spectral data. In this talk, I will discuss on the spectral theory of canonical systems. Further, some interesting properties of fundamental solutions of 2N dimensional canonical systems including a Floquet theory of periodic canonical systems will be presented.


Keshav Acharya's Bio

Keshav Acharya is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Campus. Before joining Embry-Riddle, he was a lecturer at Kennesaw State University at Kennesaw, Georgia (2013-2015). He received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Oklahoma in 2013 and MSc from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway in 2005. He earned his BA and MA from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. His area of research broadly lies in functional analysis, operator theory and differential equations and their applications. More specifically, he focuses on the spectral analysis of Schrödinger operator, Jacobi operator, and canonical systems.


Talithia Williams
Talithia Williams
Harvey Mudd College

Pólya Speaker


Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics

The movie “Hidden Figures” brought visibility to the lives of African American women who served as NASA “human computers” in the 1960s, women who dreamed the impossible in a field where their presence was lacking. When it comes to inspiring the future productivity and innovation of our nation, women mathematicians are on the front lines. In this talk, I'll discuss my personal journey as a woman of color in mathematics and share ways we can excite public interest in mathematics, building upon the rich legacy of the Hidden Figures that have come before us. As we shift the fixed mindset around mathematics ability, we can begin conversations that improve public perception of STEM and bring people from all backgrounds into this important work.


Talithia Williams' Bio

Talithia Williams is a host of the PBS series NOVA Wonders, a groundbreaking professor, popular TED speaker, inspiring author and passionate STEM/STEAM advocate. She has made it her life's work to get people of all ages and backgrounds excited about the bold possibilities of a STEM education and to “STEMpower” women and minorities to enter these professions. Her latest book, Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics reflects Williams’ passion to re-brand the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated. Renowned for her popular TED Talk, “Own Your Body’s Data,” she advocates for all of us to deploy data as a way of taking charge of our own health. A vibrant, engaging and energizing speaker, Dr. Williams demystifies data, statistics, probabilities and the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways. She also passionately champions the contributions of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians and their vital role in transforming our future.

Dr. Williams is Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, where she develops statistical models which emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data, applying them to real world problems. Focused on data analytics, mathematics, statistical modeling and STEM outreach, she is the first African-American woman to achieve tenure at the college. She hosts NOVA Wonders, a PBS mini-series that explores the biggest questions on the frontiers of science. The Los Angeles Times praised the show for sending the message “that scientists come in a range of ages, genders, colors and hairstyles.” She also appeared in NOVA’s Prediction by the Numbers, a series exploring the history of probabilities and gambling which Forbes called, “an entertaining, fun piece that conveys her knowledgeable and deep interest in this predictive method.” In addition to her teaching and television work, she has partnered with the World Health Organization in developing a cataract model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa. Her professional experiences include research appointments at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and the National Security Agency.

An exceptional communicator and gifted teacher, Dr. Williams won the Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for distinguished teaching. She also developed a 24-part college level lecture series, "Learning Statistics: Concepts and Applications in R", for The Great Courses, an online platform for lifelong learners. Dr. Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Spelman College, a master’s degree in mathematics from Howard University and a PhD in statistics from Rice University. In 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from Fielding Graduate University for her "substantial impact on higher education" and for "championing the development of women in the STEM professions." Described by audiences as engaging, relevant, funny, accessible, and a joy to work with, Dr. Williams captivates and inspires with her contagious enthusiasm for STEM in general and math in particular. Applying the data-driven approach made famous in her TED talk to a range of subjects, she takes sophisticated numerical concepts and makes them understandable to a wide audience, debunking perceptions with an energizing call to “show me the data!”


Hortensia Soto
Hortensia Soto
Colorado State University

MAA President


Compassion in and Access to Learning Mathematics (CALM)

Research indicates that students from minoritized groups are more likely to pursue STEM degrees if they can see how these fields benefit their communities and if they are in classrooms where they experience micro or macro-affirmations. In this presentation, I will share my perspectives, based on research and personal experiences, on how we can create learning environments that provide our students access to learning mathematics. I argue that we can help students see the value of mathematics by challenging them, providing a supportive learning environment, and creating a space where they have a voice in their learning.


Hortensia Soto's Bio

Hortensia Soto is a Professor of Mathematics at Colorado State University. She has been a member of the MAA since 1989. In 1996, as a Project NExT fellow, she became an involved member and in 2002 she began her role as a working member of the MAA. Her first working role was as the Governor for the Rocky Mountain Section; this led to serving on numerous MAA committees. Such committees include the Strategic Planning Committee Finance Working Group, the Minicourse Committee, and the Carriage House Advisory Board. She later served as secretary/treasurer of her section and the Governor for Minority Representation, which led to serving on the Committee for Professional Development.

She first became a member of the Executive Committee in 2013, when she began her 4-year term as the Associate Treasurer, which included serving on the Budget Committee (as chair), the Investment Committee, and the Compensation Committee. Currently, she serves as the Associate Secretary where she primarily organizes the annual meetings. She has also served as the Chair and Treasurer of the SIGMAA on RUME. Furthermore, her expertise in mathematics education was instrumental in creating the MAA Instructional Practices Guide. Most recently, she received the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. As a mathematics educator, Hortensia has published in various areas of mathematics education including assessment, mathematical preparation of elementary teachers, outreach efforts for high school girls, and especially in the area of teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics. Her current research efforts are dedicated to investigating the teaching and learning complex analysis, where she adopts an embodied cognition perspective and is part of the Embodied Mathematics Imagination and Cognition community. Since her days as an undergraduate student, Hortensia has mentored young women and promoted mathematics via summer outreach programs. She has also been involved with facilitating professional development for K-16 teachers in Nebraska, Colorado, and California. Currently, she is delivering professional development to collegiate teachers as part of Project PROMESAS SSC (Pathways with Regional Outreach and Mathematics Excellence for Student Achievement in STEM).