Although mathematics has historically been an area dominated by men, a group of Chilean women are playing their part and have made interesting contributions in this science for Chile and the world. Here are some of the most outstanding.
Guacolda Antoine Lazzerini
One of the pioneers in the field in Chile, this outstanding mathematics teacher became the first female dean of the former Universidad Técnica del Estado (UTE). For decades, Guacolda Antoine Lazzerini taught classes at the emblematic Lastarria High School, influencing many generations of Chilean students. She lived to 107 years of age and solved mathematical problems until the end of her life.She obtained the title of mathematics and physics teacher from the Pedagogical Institute of the Universidad de Chile in 1928 and over the next three decades she worked as a mathematics teacher at the Lastarria High School. At the same time, she taught a semester at the Instituto Superior de Comercio. In 1933, she was named assistant professor at the Universidad de Chile and, in 1954, tenured professor in the Faculty of Philosophy and Education at the same university.
Between 1954 and 1958, she was secretary of the Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry Teaching Board at the Universidad Técnica del Estado, before being elected president of the same board – a position equivalent to dean – for the next four years. In 1953, she was also involved in founding the Kent School. Between 1959 and 1968, she directed the Mathematics Department in the Faculty of Philosophy and Education at the Universidad de Chile. She continued to give classes at different educational institutions until 1985.
To celebrate Women’s Day in 1997, the Agrupación de Mujeres Ingenieros (Association of Women Engineers) awarded her the recognition of distinguished professional, alongside the lawyer Elena Caffarena and the engineer Rosario Jaque. And in March 2015, she was acknowledged by the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) for her important academic work.
Antoine passed away in 2015 at 107 years of age. At her funeral, the dean of the USACH, Juan Manuel Zolezzi, stressed that Antoine arrived at her position “at a time when it was unthinkable for women to access this type of role. This shows her worth and the recognition she was given by her peers.”
Salomé Martínez is director of the Education Laboratory at the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM). She received her Mathematical Civil Engineering Degree from the Universidad de Chile and her PhD in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota in the United States. She is a professor at the Universidad de Chile and an academic in the Department of Mathematical Engineering. Salomé is also a corresponding member of the Chilean Academy of Sciences and received the Amanda Labarca Award from the Universidad de Chile in 2020.
She has led work on teacher training in mathematics that has had a significant impact in Chile and around the world. This work is characterized by its innovative nature, the generation of collaborative networks, and the creation of multidisciplinary teams.
Her work on education has been recognized at the national and international level, particularly through the UNESCO Chair “Teacher Training to Teach Mathematics in the 21st Century”, and the UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers (2017-2018), awarded to the Suma y Sigue (Add and Follow) program.
Her important research in mathematics has focused on the study of reaction-diffusion systems, in particular her essential contributions to the study of non-local dispersion, which have had an impact on the development of the field and contributed to an understanding of relevant phenomena in mathematical ecology, such as the evolution of dispersion. Her work has been published in renowned journals, where she has produced outstanding articles that have been widely cited.
Leslie Jiménez Palma
Leslie Jiménez Palma is an academic in the Department of Mathematics of the Faculty of Sciences at the Universidad de Chile. She is also coordinator of the mathematics area of the Pedagogy in Secondary Education in Mathematics and Physics degree at the same university.
After dedicating several years to pure mathematics, Professor Jiménez became interested in the world of education. Today, she researches in the field of mathematical didactics, working on the concept of visualization and the theoretical framework of mathematical workspaces. She is also researching how to bridge the gap between high school and college freshman year in this area.
Alongside her academic work, Leslie is involved in diverse activities on communication in mathematics. She is co-creator of the podcast “Con la suma de todas las fuerzas” (With the sum of all forces, @sumafuerzas) and the Instagram page “Ojo piojo con la visualización matemática” (Watch out for mathematical visualization, @visualizacion_matematica). She is also a member of the Mujeres Matemáticas en Chile collective (Women Mathematicians in Chile, @mujeres.matematicas.chile), the Witral Ciencia Latin American women’s group (@witralciencia), and the Asociación Chilena de Periodistas y Profesionales por la Comunicación de la Ciencia (Chilean Association of Journalists and Professionals for Science Communication, @achipec).
María Soledad Torres
María Soledad Torres is a professor of Mathematics at the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. She holds a Master’s and a PhD in Engineering Sciences with a minor in Mathematical Modeling from the Universidad de Chile, and is highly involved in research both in Chile and abroad.
She has participated in different initiatives as lead and associate researcher, and works to popularize science, looking at how academia can contribute to solving current problems. She does this through developing her central lines of work, in particular Stochastic Processes, Statistical Inference, and Stochastic Modeling in Biology.
In her 22 years as an academic and researcher at the Universidad de Valparaíso, she has performed different management-associated roles, specifically the coordination of postgraduate and master’s programs. María has also worked as research director, a member of the institution’s board of directors representing academia, and led the Center for Research and Modeling of Random Phenomena (CIMFAV) for more than 15 years.
In her current role as Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the Universidad de Valparaíso, she is in charge of leading this area within the institution and carrying out institutional projects linked to promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurship with a gender-based approach. Today, she continues her work in research and outreach as part of the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM), and as president of the Chilean Mathematical Society (SOMACHI).
Jessika Camaño received her Mathematics Degree from the Universidad de Concepción, and her Master’s in Mathematics and PhD in Applied Sciences with a minor in Mathematical Engineering from the same university. She is associate professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Physics at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción.
During 2008, she worked as part-time professor at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción. She obtained her PhD in June 2013 under the guidance of Professor Rodolfo Rodríguez (Universidad de Concepción), and professors Ana Alonso Rodríguez and Alberto Valli (both from the University of Trento, Italy). In March 2014, she became a tutor at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción through a National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) Advanced Human Capital Insertion Project and, in 2017, she became an assistant professor. From 2020 to date, she has worked as an associate professor.
Jessika is a lead researcher at the Universidad de Chile’s Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) and external associate researcher in the Mathematical Engineering Research Center (CI²MA) at the Universidad de Concepción. Her research looks at the numerical analysis of partial differential equations, which has led to her becoming renowned both in Chile and around the world.
Maya Stein is of Chilean and German descent, and holds a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Hamburg, Germany. She is a professor at the Universidad de Chile and an academic in the Department of Mathematical Engineering. She is also a lead researcher and deputy director of the Center of Mathematical Modeling (CMM), and academic director of the same institution.
Maya works on Combinatorics and Graph Theory, with a wide range of interests that include extreme and probabilistic graph and hypergraph theory and algorithms.
She has published more than 50 articles, and has collaborated with more than 40 researchers around the world. She leads and has participated in several international cooperation projects, and has supervised a large number of post-doctoral and other students.
Her work is internationally renowned, and she is frequently called to present at conferences and participate in workshops at leading institutions. She is part of the program committees of some of the most important conferences in her field, and editor of four international mathematics journals. She is a member of the scientific committee of the Chilean Mathematical Society (SOMACHI).
María Leonor Varas
María Leonor Varas is director of the Department of Evaluation, Measurement and Educational Registration (DEMRE) and an associate researcher, as well as one of the founders, of the Center for Advanced Research in Education (CIAE) at the Universidad de Chile. She received her PhD in Engineering Sciences with a minor in Mathematical Modeling from the Universidad de Chile.
During her mathematical research career, she has worked on signal encoding and reconstruction. As a researcher in mathematical education, she has addressed issues such as preparing teachers to teach mathematics, the quality of mathematics teaching, and children’s perceptions on the teaching and learning of mathematics.
One of her most renowned projects was the Chile-Finland bilateral education initiative, where she studied the development of mathematical understanding and performance through problem solving in third grade classrooms. She also participated in the First Math report, where she investigated the development of teachers who teach mathematics in their first five years of practicing the profession.
She has also dedicated herself to teaching and training future engineers in the field of mathematics, and has collaborated in teacher training in Chile and El Salvador.
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