Math professor named 2023 M. Gweneth Humphreys Award recipient

Dr. Erika Tatiana Camacho

Erika Tatiana Camacho has been named the recipient of the 2023 M. Gweneth Humphreys Award.


Arizona State University Professor Erika Tatiana Camacho has been named the recipient of the 2023 M. Gweneth Humphreys Award by the Association for Women in Mathematics.

Camacho will be recognized for her impactful and multidimensional mentoring activities that have enabled the success of generations of talented scientists and mathematicians — regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, family educational history or gender.

Camacho is a full professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and a Fulbright Research Scholar at the Institut de la Vision-Sorbonne Université, where she is researching photoreceptor degeneration.

In July, she ended a three-year rotation at the National Science Foundation as co-lead of the HSI Program and program officer of ADVANCE and Racial Equity in STEM Education, where she created and contributed to impactful initiatives dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion. She has a PhD in applied mathematics from Cornell University and is an accomplished researcher in the field of mathematical biology.

She feels honored and validated for the intentional mentoring she has received and given over the years.

“I would like to thank the mentors who have influenced my career path and the hundreds of students and mentees that I have had over the years who have allowed me to be part of their journey,” Camacho said. “It has been a true pleasure to get to know my mentees, affect their lives and see them rise to become great scientists. In the process of mentoring, I have transformed the lives of many of them, but they all have also greatly transformed my life as I have learned so much from them.”

Camacho has a long history of effective mentorship. She co-directed two undergraduate summer research programs: from 2005 to 2007, the Applied Mathematical Sciences Summer Institute, which she also co-founded, and from 2011 to 2013, the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute.

Her efforts with both institutes contributed to over 80 alumni earning their doctorates, the majority from underrepresented groups. She has refereed publications with 15 undergraduate co-authors, and spends countless hours mentoring students and faculty one-on-one. Her reach does not end at the university level, as she also finds time to speak to middle school and high school students about their education.

She has also facilitated changes to the mathematical profession to promote inclusion. As a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Diversity Committee, she co-founded the Workshop Celebrating Diversity that has been held at the society's annual conference each year since 2008. She has also served as a member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science Math Task Force and board of directors, as well as the Applied Mathematical Sciences council and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis advisory board. Her efforts have led to significant grant support for students, women, early career faculty and mentees to further their mathematical aspirations.

“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Camacho for being selected as a recipient of the M. Gweneth Humphreys Award,” said Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “This well-deserved award will enable Dr. Camacho to continue inspiring future generations of talented scientists from all backgrounds to transform the mathematical sciences."

For Camacho, mentoring is personal. Although a benefactor, she feels she did not have good mentoring at many steps along her career path.

“There have been so many times that I was ready to walk away, and I would have done it if it wasn’t for the very few mentors and friends that encouraged me to stay," Camacho said. "I went through a prolonged period where a supposed key mentor selfishly mentored me in ways that would promote him at the expense of my success and advancement. It was over these painful years that I realized the importance of selfless mentoring and that not all mentors do this. When I started to mentor, it was because I wanted to be the mentor at critical stages of an individual’s academic path where I, myself, didn’t have a good mentor and felt lost and powerless.

“Mentoring is invisible work that often goes unnoticed. Building the scientific capacity to advance science requires developing the human capital and workforce to carry the scientific enterprise as much as the intellectual aspect. Many times, we forget the need to develop scientists to move forward theories, and instead we focus only on the science innovation part. We need a substantial number of scientists ready to undertake complex problems. Most importantly, we need to have all the different perspectives and experiences at the table to be able to tackle complex problems from every angle and arrive at optimal solutions.”

The award is named for M. Gweneth Humphreys (1911–2006), who earned her master’s degree from Smith College and her PhD at age 23 from the University of Chicago in 1935. She taught mathematics to women for her entire career, at Mount St. Scholastica College, Sophie Newcomb College, and finally for over 30 years at Randolph-Macon Woman's College. This award, funded by contributions from her former students and colleagues at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, recognizes her commitment to and her profound influence on undergraduate students of mathematics.

Camacho will be honored by the Association for Women in Mathematics at the Joint Mathematical Meetings, scheduled for Jan. 4–7, 2023, in Boston.

“I really thank the AWM for recognizing the important work of individuals that work tirelessly and selflessly to mentor,” Camacho said. “Only through efforts that recognize excellent mentoring are we going to make mentoring and the creation of scientists a key aspect of advancing science.”

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