A new joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, supported by the Division of Physical Sciences, has been created to focus on a social-justice issue from a data-science perspective. Dr. Courtney Shelley has been hired as the Social Justice/Data Science (SJDS) Assistant Adjunct Professor and will teach two courses in mathematics each year. The position has a dual-mentor system whereby the SJDS professor has a data-science mentor in either mathematics or statistics and a second mentor who is a scholar of social justice from another campus unit.

“Dr. Shelley’s data-science mentor will be Dr. Chad Hazlett, Assistant Professor of Statistics and Political Science. Her social justice mentor will be Dr. Onyebuchi Arah, Professor of Epidemiology. Dr. Shelley will collaborate with them on identifying causal drivers of spatio-temporal patterns and social inequities in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. These issues impact the most vulnerable members of our society, including racial and ethnic minority groups. These topics are both pressing and important for social-justice,” says Department of Statistics Professor Mark Handcock.

Dr. Shelley received her BS from UCLA, majoring in Theoretical Biology with special interests in disease modeling. She then received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of California Davis in 2019, where she focused on childhood vaccination coverage of US children and the potential for vaccine preventable disease outbreaks. She is now a second-year postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she recently won the 2020 Distinguished Postdoc Award for her extensive work in COVID-19 modeling and forecasting. This work has supported the White House, the Congressional Budget Office, the Governor of New Mexico, and the Nevada State Department of Health. In addition to COVID-related work, she also works with a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, data analysists, and advocates to reduce suicide outcomes in US Veterans.

The Administrative Management Group (AMG), in partnership with Campus Human Resources honors outstanding managers and staff who have made significant contributions to their organizations and the UCLA campus through their Excellence Awards series. This year, Ronke Epps, chief administrative officer (CAO) of the mathematics department, has been selected as the sole recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Career Award.

This prestigious award recognizes “an individual who has led a distinguished career over a significant period of time at the University, has shared invaluable institutional knowledge with others, and has made important contributions to the campus as a whole.”

Ronke has served in leadership roles across several academic departments at UCLA, including the School of Public Affairs, Anderson School of Management, and Asian Languages & Cultures. Since 2012, she has served as CAO of the Department of Mathematics.

“In her career of more than twenty years at UCLA, Ronke Epps has been a remarkable leader with a clear vision for necessary change and the interpersonal skills to inspire others and build dedicated teams striving for excellence. She has been a role model for many people throughout her career. In the Department of Mathematics her presence has had a transformative effect. I cannot think of anybody better qualified for the Distinguished Career Award than Ronke Epps,” said Department Professor and Chair Mario Bonk.

For the full list of Excellence Awards recipients, visit their website.

UCLA assistant professor of mathematics Pavel Galashin has won the 2021 Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. This is one of two early career awards Galashin has recently received, as he was also selected for the prestigious 2021 Sloan Fellowship in February.

The National Science Foundation CAREER awards, presented by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their organization. The award recipient receives a grant of a minimum of $400,000 for a five year period.

Galashin’s project is focused on connections between algebraic combinatorics and other areas of math and physics, such as knot theory, statistical mechanics, and the physics of scattering amplitudes. The funds will be used to facilitate various combinatorics related activities at UCLA, and to increase graduate and undergraduate student participation in the field. To learn more, visit the NSF website here.