Louise Hay Award

2004 Winner: Bozenna Pasik-Duncan


In recognition of her wide range of outstanding work as a mathematician, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) presents the Fourteenth Annual Louise Hay Award to Bozenna Pasik-Duncan of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Kansas.

During her outstanding career as a mathematics educator, she became highly involved in attending and giving presentations at workshops and conferences related to the use of technology in mathematics education, revealing her devotion to lifelong learning and staying abreast of new developments in the profession. In 1990, her exemplary teaching was honored when she received the California Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence.

Since joining the faculty of the Mathematics Department at Kansas in 1983, she has held visiting appointments in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Japan and China, and has held offices and served on committees and as an editor at the Polish Mathematical Society, the Society of Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Control System Society (CSS) and the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC). She has been Professor in the Mathematics Department at the University of Kansas since 1994. Professor Pasik-Duncan’s research has centered on stochastic processes and stochastic adaptive control of continuous-time linear and nonlinear systems; her current research interests are in stochastic processes and stochastic theory, the relation between statistics and control theory and applications of stochastic theory and control to biomedicine, biostatistics, telecommunication networks and finance. Her numerous awards and honors for her research culminated in an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Third Millennium Medal for outstanding achievements and contributions and a Distinguished Member Award from IEEE Control Systems Society in 2000. In 2001, she became an IEEE Fellow for contributions to Identification and Stochastic Adaptive Control.

Bozenna Pasik-Duncan is a research mathematician with a deep commitment to education with the focus on integrating research, teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math. She has been recognized for her teaching from the time she was a Lecturer in Warsaw, when she received the National Teaching Award from the Ministry of Higher Education and Sciences in 1975. At Kansas, she has continued to receive teaching awards, including the Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and Advising in Public Outreach as well as one for distinguished teaching and the profound impact made on students’ lives; another was her Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator (HOPE), the first HOPE award ever presented to a math professor by graduating seniors. She was the 45th recipient of this award.

Pasik-Duncan’s work in education extends beyond her exceptional skill as a teacher. In nominating her, Professor Jack Porter, chair of her department, said that her philosophy is that every student from high school senior to undergraduate to graduate will experience research that bridges mathematic with different fields (for example, biology, physics, chemistry, economics, and medicine). Pasik-Duncan has worked to make this vision come alive. Through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Professor Pasik-Duncan has, since 1992, mentored students and nurtured them in their studies. Indeed, the NSF Control Workshops under her leadership enhance the connection among high school students, mathematics and science teachers, and research groups in control systems. As a co-investigator of projects supported by NSF and the Sprint Corporation, she involved her graduate students in industrial research. Her interests extend to mathematics education at the elementary level. She taught an algebra and probability class to fourth, fifth and sixth graders in 1994-96, with her students winning regional and state mathematics contests, and for the past ten years has organized well-attended annual workshops for fifth graders. According to one of her former students, she would bring local elementary school children to the university and invite her undergraduate students to give presentations about mathematics and its applications. “It was seeing demonstrations like these as a kid that got me excited about science and ultimately influenced my path to pursue a Ph.D. at MIT,” wrote this student from a small Kansas farming town, with a high school student body one-tenth the size of his freshman chemistry class at the university.

Among her many professional services, Pasik-Duncan had been Vice President for Membership Activities of CSS, Vice President of the Warsaw Branch of the Polish Mathematical Society, Program Director of the SIAM Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory, chair of the IEEE CSS Standing Committees on Assistance of Engineers at Risk, International Affairs, Women in Control and chair of the Technical Committee on Control Education as well as co-chair of the IFAC Control Education Committee. In 2000 she was the leader of the Control Systems Delegation to the People’s Republic of China under the People-to-People Ambassador Program. This past year, she has formed and will be the faculty advisor to an AWM Student Chapter at the University of Kansas. She consistently exhibits a firm and active commitment to support women in mathematics, engineering, and science.

By the Louise Hay Award, AWM is proud to honor Bozenna Pasik-Duncan for her broad and inspiring vision of mathematics as a discipline and as a profession, and for her remarkable skill and commitment in carrying out the role of a professional mathematician in a wide variety of communities and settings.

Response from Bozenna Pasik-Duncan:

I am very honored and proud to have been selected by the Association for Women in Mathematics for its Fourteenth Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education. Professor Louise Hay’s outstanding achievements as a teacher, scholar, administrator, and human being have inspired many of us.

It was over forty years ago when I became involved in real teaching as a teenager in a small village in Poland where we would spend lovely summer vacations. Every Sunday during those summers local kids walked to “my school” for math. It was during that time when I was also asked by a university math professor to tutor his daughter in math and science. One day when she was taking her oral exam in chemistry in the presence of the whole class she looked at me, “her teacher,” with desperation in her eyes: “help me, I cannot do it?” I answered with the utmost confidence, “Yes, you can,” and she did. From that moment on I knew that I could be a good math teacher who would take good care of all those students who need math and science. The long list includes my first students while I was in high school, my family, friends, neighbors, their children and grandchildren, etc. I have developed a reputation of being a math teacher who has time for everyone who needs help in math and science.

I have taught since 1984 at the University of Kansas after teaching in Poland for thirteen years, where I received excellent teaching experience. Balancing two cultures in teaching fascinates me the most. When my daughter, Dominique, was a fourth grader we took her to Poland and France and enrolled her in the local schools. She was an outstanding student in Lawrence, but about two grade levels behind the French and Polish students in math. When we returned to Lawrence I said, “We need to work.” I offered to share the tutoring with Dominique’s class. It was the best teaching and learning experience. I used French, Polish and American books so the students also learned some Polish and French. A year later Dominique was up to speed with her French and Polish classmates. My fourth grade students scored the highest in the state at mathematical problem solving. I taught them for three more years, and this year they graduated from high school, with a few being National Merit Scholars. Dominique is a first-year math student at the University of Chicago with almost 100 credit hours from the University of Kansas.

It was over thirty-five years ago when I became involved in a real-world project for the Polish Central Planning Committee. Stochastic modeling and forecasting were my first major research areas. Shortly after that I became the director of the Applied Mathematics Center of the Polish Mathematical Society, with some fascinating work. I had taught for thirteen years at Warsaw School of Economics where I was lucky to have an outstanding mentor in teaching. I came to Kansas to work with Tyrone E. Duncan. His research in stochastic control, coupled with my own studies in stochastic processes and mathematical statistics, made the best partnership. We wrote over 100 papers together and solved some long-standing stochastic adaptive control problems. We built the pro gram in stochastic theory and control that has put Kansas on the world map.

Most of my master’s and Ph.D. students have gone on to work in industry. Some of them quickly took leadership positions: they work with the University of Kansas Medical Center on the analysis of epilepsy, for Sprint Corporation on the intricacies of telecommunication networks, for actuarial companies, for investment banks, for graphic design companies, and for various other industries. All of these former students are applying knowledge they acquired from research performed at KU. From freshmen to Ph.D. candidates, all of my students participate in research, and most of their research has been supported by the National Science Foundation. Several of my undergraduate students have received NSF fellowships for graduate study in the best programs in their fields of interest. Several undergraduate and graduate students are involved in research each summer. The NSF has also supported several national workshops for teachers and students on research and teaching, making a commitment to support K-12 school teachers who want to become involved in research.

I attended my high school’s 35th year reunion and gave a talk entitled “From the Polish Space to the Land of Oz: Acceptance and Tolerance.” I spoke about my students in Kansas, the people of Kansas, and about Kansas itself. I had never realized that I feel very much at home and can speak so enthusiastically and passionately about Kansas. I am grateful to all in Kansas for making me feel free from the stress of speaking with an accent. I can now joke, “You don’t recognize my Kansas accent?” when asked, “Where are you from?”

I would like to thank my entire control community that includes women in control for giving me so many opportunities to integrate research, teaching and learning in science, engineering and math. I would like to thank many KU and Kansas people for beautiful acceptance and tolerance, for countless help and assistance, and for recognizing my love for math, music, science, engineering, and for people. I am proud of being a Kansan and an American, and this is the reason why I have enjoyed giving back to the Kansas community by being involved in outreach programs. Teaching Lawrence school students, bringing them to KU for math: these activities which make me so, so happy are most rewarding. I would also like to thank my students and all students for making me happy in Kansas and in this country. I would like to thank Professor Jack Porter, my chairman for nominating me for this award and Professor Judy Roitman, who is the 1996 recipient of this award and who has shared with me her success stories in mathematics education over many years. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my mother, my husband and my daughter for their most beautiful support.

From the bottom of my heart I thank the selection committee and the AWM for making me feel the happiest person on the earth. I cannot find English words to express my feelings, but now I cannot even find Polish words to express my feelings. I will be even a better teacher now.