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Castillo-Chavez receives national public service award

Carlos Castillo-Chavez
January 26, 2010

ASU Regents’ Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a mathematical epidemiologist, is once again receiving national recognition for his contribution to the mathematics profession. This month, Castillo-Chavez received the award for distinguished public service from the American Mathematical Society.

The award citation reads: “Castillo-Chavez has had a major impact with his efforts and activities in improving the representation in the broad mathematical sciences of the nation’s traditionally underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students. He continues his activities in research and education at a very high level and is a most worthy recipient.”

The award, established in 1990, is usually given every two years to a research mathematician who has made a distinguished contribution to the mathematics profession during the preceding five years. It was presented earlier this month during the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco.

Past recipients were Herbert Clemens, Roger Howe, Richard Tapia, Margaret Wright, Paul Sally Jr., Kenneth Millett, Donald Lewis, Isadore Singer, Harvey Keynes and Kenneth Hoffman.

Previously, Castillo-Chavez received the 2007 Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the AAAS award, in part, for his leadership role in the mentoring of Hispanic American students in graduate and undergraduate programs.

Castillo-Chavez came to ASU from Cornell University in 2004 and brought with him the well-known Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI), a summer program he established. Its goal is to increase the number of doctorates from underrepresented U.S. populations in fields where mathematical, computational and modeling skills play a critical role.

“I am profoundly moved by the AMS decision to recognize my epsilon contributions to the mathematical sciences and some of it communities," Castillo-Chavez said. "The importance that the AMS places on public service, as demonstrated by the establishment of this award, resonates even more in this time of crisis."

“The importance of providing opportunities and multiple successful pathways to all U.S. aspiring mathematicians must be continuously carried out, not only to preserve the intellectual capacity that we have, but also to broaden and enrich the mathematical community through the systematic inclusion in the wonderful and empowering world of mathematics of Americans who have been traditionally underrepresented,” he said.

"The programs put in place by Professor Castillo-Chavez have a direct and positive impact on students," said Elizabeth D. Capaldi, ASU’s executive vice president and provost. "His excellence in research and his commitment to underrepresented students is making a difference at ASU and in the mathematics profession. We are proud of his latest achievement.”

In addition to his title of Regents’ Professor, Castillo-Chavez is the Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he teaches in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

Castillo-Chavez also is director of ASU’s Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, which, the citation noted, “strives to create a dynamic community of quantitative scientists and mathematicians driven to contribute to the solution of problems in the biological, environmental, and social sciences.”

His research is carried out at the interface of the mathematical, natural and social sciences and puts emphasis on the role of dynamic social landscapes on disease dispersal; the role of behavior on disease evolution; the role of behavioral, environmental and social structures on the dynamics of addiction; and the identification of mechanisms that facilitate the spread of diseases across multiple levels of organization.

"Professor Castillo-Chavez has an international reputation for his computational modeling as well as his mentoring of students, preparing them for careers in mathematics,” said Sid Bacon, dean of natural sciences in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It is fitting for him to win this award from the world’s largest society devoted to mathematical research."

The American Mathematical Society was founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship. Today, the society has more than 32,000 members. More information about the organization and this year’s awards is available at