Over Dead Week, Nina Pande and I attended the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We had a wonderful experience, and we are grateful to the Clare Boothe Luce Program and the Math Department for providing us with the opportunity to go. Over the course of the three-day conference, we heard talks given by invited speakers and fellow undergraduate women, presented on our own research, went to panels and discussions, and met amazing female mathematicians from across the country.
There were two plenary talks, one by Emina Soljanin of Rutgers University and another by Abigail Thompson of University of California-Davis. Soljanin gave a talk, “How Does Applied Math Become Applicable?” on her experiences working at Bell Labs and her research in coding theory and applied math. Thompson’s talk, “Understanding 3-Dimensional Spaces,” went through key concepts in knot theory and low-dimensional topology while weaving in her own her own experiences through college, graduate school, and beyond. Both speakers gave very engaging and informative presentations. Throughout the conference, there were five sessions of presentations by undergraduate students and two poster sessions. We gave a talk, “The Relationship Between a Ring and its Completion,” on our research this summer at SMALL. It was the largest audience we have presented to so far, which was very exciting.
The conference also offered many opportunities to network and talk with other students and mathematicians. Graduate students and professors facilitated small sessions on a variety of themes, including applying to graduate school and the confidence gap between men and women. It was great to have a space to discuss these issues and topics with women from many different backgrounds at varying points in their career. At a pizza dinner, we got the chance to talk with Sylvia Wiegand, professor emerita at UNL who has made significant contributions to the field of commutative algebra. She has led a fascinating life: her grandmother, Grace Chisholm Young, was the first woman in Germany to receive a PhD in any field, and she has run over 250 marathons across all 50 states. Talking with her was definitely a highlight of the conference.
Overall, NCUWM was a great conference, and I’m glad that I got the chance to participate. It offers invaluable experiences for undergraduate women in math to see examples of successful women in the field and to learn about math research, graduate school, and career paths in math. Many of the graduate students, professors, and other mathematicians there had actually attended the conference as undergrads, and they serve as testaments of its success in encouraging women to continue with math. I would strongly urge students to attend next year.