Mohamed Omar, an associate professor of mathematics and the Joseph B. Platt Chair in Effective Teaching at Harvey Mudd College, has been awarded the inaugural AMS Claytor-Gilmer Fellowship. The yearlong fellowship was established to further excellence in mathematics research and to help generate wider and sustained participation by Black mathematicians. Omar has an excellent track record in research and a notable research program, and he has displayed impressive leadership in mentoring and service to the mathematics community.
Omar uses algebra in areas of discrete mathematics such as combinatorics, graph theory and discrete/convex geometry. During the 2021–2022 fellowship, Omar will pursue two main lines of inquiry. First, he will study applications of the recently developed Slice-Rank Polynomial Method, which harnesses linear algebra to solve problems in extremal combinatorics involving restrictions on more than two sets from a family of sets. Second, he will explore graph propagation through an algebraic lens.
“I am outstandingly grateful for this fellowship, but I truly believe it is not about me, it’s about us,” Omar said. “It’s a recognition of the countless tolls that Black academics take to stay in the field. It’s a grievance for the countless opportunities lost because of the nuanced dances that Black academics have to tango day in and day out. It’s for the enthusiastic and hopeful Black student who holds on to hope despite countless efforts of the community to rob it. It’s for the Black faculty member whose unseen labor is rarely, if ever, recognized. It’s the beginning of a recognition of the many ways in which this profession is not inclusive to its Black members.”
Omar is heavily engaged in mathematics outreach and mathematics competition creation. He has served on organizing committees for the American Mathematics Competitions and Canadian competitions through the Center for Education in Mathematics and Computing. (Watch his invited address at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings on the art and craft of problem design for both classes and competitions.) Omar posts regularly to his YouTube channel ProfOmarMath, offering students insights on creative approaches to undergraduate mathematics.
“Though it may not sound like traditional outreach, one of the most enriching activities for me is direct contact with Black math faculty from across the United States,” Omar said. “We are few and far between; having a close network has had a tremendously positive impact on my well-being while in the career.”
Omar earned his PhD in mathematics from the University of California, Davis, in 2011. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology before joining the faculty of Harvey Mudd. In 2018, he won the Henry L. Alder Award from the Mathematical Association of America in recognition of his outstanding undergraduate teaching and dedication to inclusion in STEM education.
About the Fellowship
The AMS Claytor-Gilmer Fellowship aims to further excellence in mathematics research and to help generate wider and sustained participation by Black mathematicians. Awardees may use the $50,000 fellowship in any way that most effectively enables their research—for instance, for release time, participation in research programs, travel support, childcare, etc. The most likely awardee is a mid-career Black mathematician based at a U.S. institution whose achievements demonstrate significant potential for further contributions to mathematics. The fellowship is named for Dr. William Schieffelin Claytor, the first African American man to publish a research article in a peer-reviewed mathematics journal, and Dr. Gloria Ford Gilmer, the first African American woman to publish a research article in a peer-reviewed mathematics journal.