Katherine Okikiolu Essay

Katherine Okikiolu comes from a mathematical family, her father is a mathematician and inventor and her mother is a high school mathematics teacher. Her parents met when her father left Nigeria to study mathematics at the same college in England where her mother was studying physics. Her father, the Nigerian George Okikiolu, has written more mathematics papers than any other Black mathematician. She is married to mathematician Hans Lindblad.

Okikiolu earned her B. A. in Mathematics from Cambridge University in England before coming to the United States in 1987 to attend graduate school mathematics at UCLA the University of California, Los Angeles.

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There, she worked with two mentors, Sun-Yung (Alice) Chang and John Garnett, and was able to solve a problem concerning asymptotics of determinants of Toeplitz operators on the sphere and a conjecture of Peter Jones, characterizing subsets of rectifiable curves in Euclidean n-space.

After her doctorate, Kate went, in 1993, to Princeton University where she was an Instructor and an Assistant Professor until 1995.

From 1995 until 1997 she was a visiting Assistant Professor at MIT. Since 1997, she has been on the faculty in the Mathematics Department of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), first as an Assistant Professor. Also in 1996, Dr. Okikiolu spoke as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration for Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM).

In 2002, she gave the Claytor-Woodard lecture at the NAM meeting the Joint Mathematics Meetings. In June 1997, Kate Okikiolu was the first Black to win the most prestigious award for young mathematics researchers the United States, a Sloan Research Fellowship. In 1997, UCSD promoted her to Associate Professor. The $70,000 Sloan Fellowship was not her only award of 1997.

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