Janet Norwood, Nancy Kopell, and Lenore Blum

Janet Norwood
Janet Norwood

Janet Norwood holds one of the most important and demanding jobs in the federal government. As the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, she frequently testifies before Congress and its various
committees. She also oversees nearly 3000 government employees who collect and analyze data on labor, employment, and the economy. “We are responsible for some of the most sensitive of the economic data,” she notes, such as measures of productivity, inflation, and employment and unemployment. ‘These data figure very prominently in most of the political debates, so it is extremely important that they be accurate and of high quality, and that they be released in a manner that is totally objective.” Janet is Past-President of the American Statistical Association, a position that testifies to her important contributions to the field of statistics. “I like my job, I find it quite fascinating, very challenging, and very difficult at times,” Janet says. “And I like it because I’m very proud of the staff we have here. We have a very dedicated staff… We do a great deal of work that I think is important.”

Nancy Kopek
Nancy Kopell

Mathematician Nancy Kopell has spent the last several years working on a mathematical framework for problems in biology. In 1990, she received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, a generous five-year grant allowing her to expand and build on her research. Nancy works on central pattern generators—neural networks that govern rhythmic motor processes, such as swimming, walking, chewing, and breathing. “The overall problem we’re trying to approach is to get a better understanding of the relationship between structure and function in the central nervous system,” she explains. When she first became interested in this subject, the problems had not even been framed in mathematical language. The biologists were surprised to find that mathematics could provide relatively simple answers to some of their questions. “The culture of biology stresses detail, differences among species and among individuals within the species,” she notes. “Mathematics starts from exactly the opposite point of view. The power of mathematics is the ability to find generalizations that span different individuals, and the challenge is to do so in ways that preserve the importance of the relevant details.”

Lennore Blum
Lenore Blum

Lenore Blum is a research scientist at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California and also holds academic posts at Mills College in Oakland and at the University of California at Berkeley. Lenore was instrumental in the founding of the Association for Women in Mathematics, serving as its President from 1975 to 1978. Currently, she does research in complexity theory, which examines fundamental questions about what kinds of problems can and cannot be solved by computers. “Certain problems have built-in obstructions to easy solution,” Lenore explains, “so it’s been important to categorize which are the hard problems and which are the easy problems.” She and her colleagues have been developing a new branch of complexity theory that will apply to computational problems arising in science and engineering. “What we’ve been doing is laying down the foundations [for the new theory], and that’s been really exciting.” In recent years, Lenore’s work has gained prominence, and she has traveled all over the U.S., as well as to Europe, the Soviet Union, South America, and Japan, to speak about her research.

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This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.

Copyright ©1991, 2018 Association for Women in Mathematics. All rights reserved.
Comments: awm@awm-math.org.