Painting Lesson Leads to Essay Prize

To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Math for America recently co-sponsored an essay contest. Harvey Mudd College student Ramita Kondepudi ’18 earned first place at the Undergraduate Level for her essay about Dr. Maria Klawe, “Painting With the President.”

“When I found the AWM contest, I decided on President Klawe immediately,” says Kondepudi. “I thought it would be a fun opportunity to get to know her better, as a woman in STEM that I look up to, and write about her accomplishments and life.”

Essay submissions were based on an interview with a woman mathematician or statistician in an academic, industrial or government career and were judged by a panel of mathematicians. Winners received a prize and had their essays published online at the AWM website.

In her essay, Kondepudi discusses Klawe’s impressive biography as well as some of the many positive interactions she has had with Klawe while at Mudd, including being invited over to her house to learn water color painting, a passion for which Klawe is well known. Kondepudi credits Klawe as a role model who helped her understand that “you don’t have to look like the standard model to be successful”—and that women can succeed at the highest levels of science and mathematics.

Kondepudi’s passion for writing goes back as far as kindergarten, where she wrote and “published” her first story for the school book fair. In high school, she blogged regularly about sustainability-related activities at ThinkGreenSpeak. She is an Office of Admission tour guide and regular blogger on the College’s Admission website.

Kondepudi will pursue an engineering degree, a decision she made after taking Introduction to Engineering Design and Manufacturing (E4) last spring. She says she enjoys the systematic approach that math and science offer to problem solving and wants to use these skills to address sustainable living and environmental advocacy.