(Executive Director, Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics || Panama)
“Imagine a structure that consists of a set of objects together with operations that satisfy certain characteristics — in math we call this an algebra. You want to understand the structure of your algebra, but sometimes it can be really, really difficult to understand. The idea behind my PhD was deformation theory of abstract algebras. You can slightly change the structure of your algebra and create a new algebra that is easier to understand. Then you can study this new algebra, which might tell you something about the original structure.
After my PhD, I decided to return to Panama. I ended up working for the Panamanian government, where I created a math outreach program. I invited amazing international speakers to Panama to give talks to the public. One of the biggest barriers we faced was the Panamanian bureaucracy itself — the events were a huge success, but when the country had presidential elections, the new administration came in with different priorities. We decided to create our own private nonprofit foundation to continue organizing outreach events. With the pandemic we’ve been running virtual events which are free and public — people of all ages from Spanish-speaking countries all over the world attend. We’ve had over 250 events with more than 30,000 participants. I’ve also started giving interactive presentations on how math is all around us. The main connection to my PhD has been coming up with ways to explain math so everyone can understand and feel they belong in the math community.
I love to dream. My dream is to build a math museum in Panama where as soon as you walk in you’ll find all kinds of puzzles to play with. We’ll have space for events like origami classes — origami is perfect for teaching because you can learn mathematical concepts while creating something beautiful. The best way to learn is by having the kids play games and build shapes with their own hands. Our museum would be independent of all academic institutions or government organizations — a museum purely of mathematics.”