Statistician will address ‘Power in Numbers’ as NSU hosts MAA conference

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NATCHITOCHES – Statistician and speaker Talithia Williams will be the featured speaker at Northwestern State University where she will discuss “Power in Numbers:  Unveiling Hidden Figures,” as part of a meeting of the Louisiana/Mississippi section of the Mathematical Association of America, hosted by NSU’s Department of Mathematics.

Williams will speak at 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 4 in the Student Union Ballroom. The community is invited to attend. NSU’s Department of Mathematics is hosting the LA/MS Section of the Mathematical Association of America annual meeting March 3-5.  Department faculty who have leadership roles in the organization include Dr. Leigh Ann Myers, program chair and coordinator of the conference, and Dr. Judith Covington, chair of MAA’s Louisiana/Mississippi section.  As section chair Covington is serving the organization for three years, presiding at each section meeting, serving on the executive committee of the section and as an ex-officio member of each committee.

“Power in Numbers” uses the movie “Hidden Figures,” the story of African American women who served as NASA “human computers” in the 1960s, to illustrate that the demands of a 21st century STEM workforce will require looking past traditional talent pools to recruit and train individuals typically underrepresented in math.  She will discuss her personal journey as a woman of color in statistics and share ways to excite public interest in data science.

Williams is an award-winning Harvey Mudd College professor, a cohost of the PBS NOVA Series “NOVA Wonders” and a speaker whose popular TED talk, “Own Your Body’s. Date,” extols the value of statistic 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.

She is winner of the 2015 Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty member, and was selected 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.

Williams is the author of “Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics,” which highlights the influence of women in the mathematical sciences in the last two millennia and she has narrated several science documentary films including NOVA’s “secrets in our DNA” and “Hindenburg:  The New Evidence.”

Williams earned a B.A. in mathematics at Spelman College, M.A. in mathematics at Howard University and M.A. and Ph.D. in statistics at Rice University. Her research focus involves developing statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and applies them to problems in the environment. She has worked at NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Security Agency and has partnered with the World Health Organization on research regarding cataract surgical rates in African countries.

Through her research, Williams is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM and mathematics, rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical and male-dominated, and defining mathematics as a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country.

For more information on Williams’ visit is available by contacting Myers at myers@nsula.edu.