Celebrating women in STEM: Dr. Chelsea Walton

Madalyn Weston

When you hear the words “noncommutative algebra,” you’re probably not thinking, “Wow! That sounds like my dream job!” This special branch of mathematics examines how the order of multiplying two functions changes the outcome of the problem and has applications in quantum mechanics and other areas of physics. For Dr. Chelsea Walton, studying noncommutative algebra was her dream job.

Dr. Walton was born in Detroit, Michigan, in July 1983. She was interested in a career in mathematics from a young age, but didn’t realize she could make it a career until she got internet access in high school. She even emailed random mathematics professors to figure out how to pursue her dream. In 2005, she graduated with honors from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s in mathematics. She went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for graduate school, completing her master’s in 2007 and her Ph.D. in 2011. During her Ph.D. program, she also spent three semesters as a visiting student at the University of Manchester in the U.K.

After completing her education, Dr. Walton accepted a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 2013, she had a semester-long postdoctoral position at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California. Her last postdoctoral position was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was a Clarence Lemuel Elisha Moore Instructor until 2015.

Finally, after more than a decade of training and moving around the world to follow her passion, Dr. Walton was ready to achieve her dream of being a mathematics professor. She accepted an assistant professorship at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Last year, Dr. Walton accepted a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Today, she has over 30 publications and has presented more than 80 research talks. She is a member of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America and the National Association of Mathematics.

Dr. Walton won many awards for her outstanding work in mathematics. In 2011, she won the Wirt and Mary Cornwell Prize in Mathematics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 2013, she was awarded in Infinite Kilometer Award from MIT for her outreach efforts in her field. In 2016, she was awarded the Recent Alumni Award from the College of Natural Sciences at Michigan State University. In 2017, she won a Sloan Research Fellowship for $60,000. Last year, she won the Andre Lichnerowicz Prize in Poisson Geometry from the International Conference on Poisson Geometry in Mathematics and Physics. And in May of this year, UIUC awarded her the Arnold O. Beckman Research Award.

Are you interested in empowering women in the STEM fields? The Women in Science (Wi-Sci) group wants you! Email President Emily Larner ([email protected]) for more information.

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