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Black Math PhD's Hold UC Meet To Swell Ranks

  1. June 25, 2004
  2. Jakob Schiller
  3. BERKELEY DAILY PLANET

Kimberly Sellers says that one of her most vivid memories from childhood is of helping her father, every year, track the number of African Americans graduating with doctorates from American universities. She remembers it so well, she says, because the numbers were always dismally low, usually in the single digits.
Ever since, Sellers has wanted to help change those numbers and just recently, she did. In 2001, Sellers graduated from George Washington University in Washington D.C., with her Ph.D. in Statistics.

Today, she is a visiting professor of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, and this week she was in Berkeley for part of the tenth annual African American Researchers Conference sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Along with almost 80 other African American math professors and Ph.D. students, Sellers spent the week attending and giving lectures as part of the conference originally developed to sustain and increase the number of African Americans working at the highest levels of mathematics.

As the only African American in her undergraduate department, the only African American in her Masters program, the only African American in her Ph.D. program, and now the only African American faculty member in the Statistics Department, Sellers said it's been readily apparent that she's "very much a minority" in the field of mathematics. That's where conferences like the one held at MSRI fit in, she said. MSRI is housed at UC Berkeley, but is not officially part of the campus.