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Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications

Written by:
March 6, 2023
Written on . Posted in Math Curriculum, Math Modeling, Events.

Great News! The Search is Over New COMAP Leader Chosen

I am extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Catherine Roberts has agreed to join the COMAP team as Chief Executive Officer of the organization on September 1, 2023. She has a stellar background as an educator, mathematician, and administrator. She exhibits qualities beyond all expectations that we hoped to find in a candidate for this position! Catherine comes to us after serving as the Executive Director of the American Mathematical Society for many years. We are very fortunate to have such a respected and impressive individual committed to leading COMAP in its future path.

Eric Robinson
President of the COMAP Board of Trustees
On behalf of the COMAP Board

Getting to know Catherine: a small sampling from an expanding biography:

Catherine received a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Sciences from Northwestern University. However, she did not enter her college studies with that intention. In her own words, "I started Bowdoin College planning to study French, and never would have majored in mathematics were it not for the persistence of Professor Bill Barker. After my Calculus 1 course, he sent me a letter inviting me to take a second course. After my Calculus 2 course, he sent me a letter asking me to come see him to discuss becoming a math major. I'd seen myself as a humanities, theater, language person so this came as quite a surprise! I had always wanted to be a teacher and earned certification to teach 5-12 math before deciding to go to graduate school so that I could become a college professor. I married my high school sweetheart after graduate school. We have raised two sons. We bounced around a bit as we worked to solve our two-body problem (he's an academic chemist). I worked at Univ. of RI, Northern AZ University, and College of the Holy Cross (note the variations -- doctoral-granting, masters-granting, bachelor-only, public and private, large and small)."

In terms of teaching Catherine shares that "As an engaged teacher who is devoted to achieving excellence in every aspect of my career, I have an established record of quality teaching, as well as publications in mathematics education. In 2007, I was selected by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve as a Master Teacher for the Intel Massachusetts Mathematics Initiative, now known as the Intel Math Program. This is an 80-hour professional development course for K-8 teachers, which aims to deepen their conceptual understanding of mathematics.

College courses I have taught reflect my interest and training in applied mathematics. Even a course that is not specifically designated as an applied course, such as Calculus, is flavored with examples that emphasize the content’s connection to the real world. I emphasize mathematics as problem solving and as a language."

Not surprisingly, mathematical modeling is a central characteristic of her research. One area of her work focuses on "Natural Resource Modeling." Catherine mentions that "This work seeks to characterize complex human-environment interactions in a recreational setting." Working in collaboration with others, this research work develops traffic models to simulate the responses of humans operating within an everchanging natural environment. One example from her work is referenced here. “We developed the Grand Canyon River Trip Simulator. This model uses artificial intelligence and statistical techniques to capture the unique nature of this interaction." The Simulator has been used, and may still be used, by the National Parks Service.

Research for the example mentioned above provided experience that Catherine now describes as among her favorite experiences. She went whitewater rafting thought the Grand Canyon (three times).

Asked for other things she likes that are part of her life, she says "My interests include bike riding, swimming, WooSox baseball games, musical theater, gardening, walking my chocolate lab, napping in my hammock, and eating Mexican and Indian food."

Two more quotes:

"I have known Catherine as a valued colleague for many years. She has always been supportive of COMAP and our mission. Catherine is no stranger to COMAP. She had experience using many UMAP modules in her classes. And she is a member in good standing of the COMAP family, having been on the final grading team for the MCM/ICM as well as the HiMCM competitions and even authored an MCM problem. Through her work at AMS she has gained a worldwide reputation. Her hire will immediately raise the profile of our organization. In addition to her many accomplishments you will find her smart and funny and a joy to work for. I cannot imagine a better outcome of this search."

Executive Director of COMAP (for now)

In summary, Catherine adds:

"The opportunity to lead COMAP is a dream come true. As an applied mathematician who incorporated mathematical modeling in my courses and research, I truly believe that engagement with the applications of mathematics is key to solving many of the world's challenges -- and that this all starts with educators and students. I have a deep admiration for Sol and all that he has built at COMAP, and I very much look forward to working with all of you as we guide and grow this remarkable organization."

Catherine Roberts
COMAP CEO (to be)

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The Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications is an award-winning non-profit organization whose mission is to improve mathematics education for students of all ages. Since 1980, COMAP has worked with teachers, students, and business people to create learning environments where mathematics is used to investigate and model real issues in our world.