This profile is the part of our series of Spotlights on Diversity in Engineering, which recognize individuals, teams or organizations with connections to the Rice University School of Engineering.
Statistician Talithia Williams is an innovative, award-winning Harvey Mudd College professor, a co-host of the PBS NOVA series NOVA Wonders and a speaker whose popular TED Talk (“Own Your Body’s Data”) extols the value of statistics in quantifying personal health information. She demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways to excite students, parents, educators and community members about STEM education and its possibilities.
In 2015, she won the Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member, which honors faculty members whose teaching is effective and extraordinary, and extends its influence beyond the classroom. It is this excellence that attracted the attention of online educational company The Great Courses, which selected Williams to provide “Learning Statistics: Concepts and Applications in R,” a series of lessons in which she provides tools to understand, evaluate and model statistical data.
Williams is a proud graduate of Spelman College (B.A., math), Howard University (M.S., mathematics) and Rice University (M.A., Ph.D., statistics). Her research focus involves developing statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and applies them to problems in the environment. She’s worked at NASA and the National Security Agency and has partnered with the World Health Organization on research regarding cataract surgical rates in African countries. Faith and family round out a busy life that she shares with a supportive husband and three amazing boys.
Through her research and work in the community at large, she is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM in general and math in particular, rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but a dry, technical or male-dominated but, instead, a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country.
Watch Williams's TED Talk "Own your body's data" below: