2020 Winner: Erika Camacho
In recognition of her leadership and contributions as a mathematical scholar and educator, the Association for Women in Mathematics presents the 2020 Louise Hay Award to Dr. Erika Camacho of Arizona State University. This award will be presented at the AWM Reception at the JMM in Denver, Colorado in January 2020.
Camacho has a passion for mentoring, especially the mentoring of underrepresented students. Her excitement for mathematics is prominent and accessible to her students, with projects grounded in her research in mathematical physiology, specifically the development of mathematical models which describe the interactions of photoreceptors in the retina. Her work provided the first mechanistic models of such interactions and has resulted in key collaborations with top experimentalists in the field. Camacho brings graduate and undergraduate students into her own research collabora-tions as well as seeing it as her duty to find opportunities for students with other researchers.
Camacho created the Applied Mathematical Sciences Summer Institute and has co-directed both this institute (2004–2007) and the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (2011–2013). Through these institutes and her other mentoring programs, she has impacted over 600 undergraduates, including the supervision of the research of 89 of these students, with 30 receiving conference award recognition!
Through her work Camacho changes perceptions. Her own story is an existence proof that a Latina from an underprivileged background can earn a PhD in mathe- matics and be a successful mathematician. In her over 65 plenary and panel presentations she uses her story to inspire students to persevere and succeed in mathematics. Beyond presenting, Camacho meets with attendees individually afterwards to learn about their stories and give them advice, focusing on their own interests and passions. By inspiring more women and members of underre- presented groups to continue in their mathematical pursuits, she enlarges the scope of what we perceive as successful mathematicians.
In being recognized for her work, Camacho received a 2014 PAESMEM (Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring) in June 2018 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award in January 2019.
I am humbled to receive the Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education. Dr. Hay was truly a role model for breaking down barriers and creating the supportive environment that allowed many to succeed. Whether in the classroom, mentoring through research, or sharing some of the struggles that I have overcome, I can often empathize with my students and other mentees in my efforts to help them find a good way forward. My mentors have helped me in a similar way and I have likewise tried to create a nurturing environment for my students and mentees. Beginning with my high school teacher Jaime Escalante, through key professors at Wellesley College (B.A.) and Cornell University (Ph.D.), and finally to those that have helped me navigate an often-challenging academia, I have needed each of them to succeed (and fail!) and help make me into who I am. Dr. Hay’s personal story is so inspiring and I thank the AWM for creating this award to help honor her legacy. Her lifelong commitment to nurturing the talent of young women and men exemplified her desire to build scientific capacity long before the phrase became popular. Creating a truly inclusive mathematical workforce is a goal all of us should have and one of my lifelong passions.