UW News

May 11, 2022

Faculty/staff honors in STEM mentoring, applied mathematics and Inuit languages

Recent recognition of the University of Washington includes the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring for Joyce Yen, the election of J. Nathan Kutz as a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics fellow and the recognition of Alexina Kublu with the 2022 Inuit Language Recognition Award.

Joyce Yen honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring

On Feb. 8, President Joe Biden named Joyce Yen and 14 other individuals and organizations as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Yen is the director of the UW’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change, a program that works to eliminate underrepresentation of women faculty in STEM at the UW and beyond.

headshot of Joyce Yen

Joyce Yen

Established in 1995, PAESMEM recognizes the critical roles mentors play outside the traditional classroom in the academic and professional development of the future STEM workforce.

“This award not only validates the importance of mentoring, but it also elevates the intersection of excellence and diversity and those pushing the STEM ecosystem to be better,” Yen said. “I truly love the work I do fostering communities and cultures in STEM that support and advance inclusion and belonging.”

In March, Yen was interviewed by GeekWire about the award, the work of the ADVANCE Center and the challenges of increasing women’s participation in STEM academic fields. Launched in 2001 with funding from the National Science Foundation, the center partners with faculty, chairs and leadership across campus to remove barriers for women faculty and develop accountability for institutional change.

Yen is following in the footsteps of two of her mentors, Denice Denton and Eve Riskin, as PAESMEM awardees. Denton, the original principal investigator of the ADVANCE IT grant, was honored in 2003, and Riskin, the faculty director of the center, was honored in 2020.

Riskin nominated Yen for the award.

“Joyce’s impact on the careers of so many faculty in STEM at UW and across the country has been profound,” Riskin said. “So many people are in rewarding careers thanks to Joyce’s efforts and support. I am so thrilled she was selected for this honor.”

The National Science Foundation, which manages PAESMEM on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, provides each recipient $10,000.  Award recipients also receive a certificate signed by President Joe Biden.

The White House has invited the awardees from 2020 and 2021 to Washington, D.C. from May 24 to 26 for events that will include professional development activities as well as an awards ceremony and dinner. Both Yen and Riskin are planning to attend.

Professor Nathan Kutz elected SIAM fellow

Nathan Kutz, UW professor of applied mathematics, has been elected as a 2022 fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). Fellows are chosen for their exemplary and outstanding service to the community.

J. Nathan Kutz headshot

J. Nathan KutzUniversity of Washington

Kutz was recognized for his innovative contributions across many disciplines of applied mathematics. Most recently, he has pioneered contributions that integrate modern machine learning methods with traditional dynamical systems modeling. These innovations have paved the way for emerging methods to be applied to complex systems where many traditional applied mathematical methods have failed.

“I believe this award ultimately is a reflection of the exceptional graduate students and postdocs I have mentored in my time at the UW,” Kutz said. “They have been the driving force and inspiration behind all the years of progressive developments leading to new paradigms and innovations in applied mathematics. I am truly thankful for the time I have had with each one of them in my journey of exploration.”

Kutz joins the UW’s Anne Greenbaum, Randy LeVeque, Robert O’Malley and Fred Wan as SIAM fellows.

“The department is honored to welcome a fifth SIAM Fellow among its ranks with the recent recognition of Professor Nathan Kutz,” said Bernard Deconinck, professor and chair of the Applied Math department. “Recognitions like these reflect the outstanding quality present in the department, in these and many other areas of research.”

Alexina Kublu wins 2022 Inuit Language Recognition Award

Alexina Kublu, an instructor in the UW Canadian Studies Center, is one of three people to receive the 2022 Inuit Language Recognition Award. Kublu teaches Inuktitut, the Inuit language of Canada.

Headshot of Alexina Kublu

Alexina Kublu

The award is given out by the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit board, the language authority created by the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Nunavut is a territory of northern Canada that stretches across 4 million square kilometers of the Canadian Arctic, and Inuktitut is one of its official languages.

Kublu, the former Languages Commissioner of Nunavut, teaches at the Nunavut Arctic College and the UW remotely from her home in Iqaluit, the capital of the territory. In December 2021, she taught classes to aspiring teachers as part of the Nunavut Arctic College’s teacher education program, which prepares students to become classroom teachers in the territory’s schools. The students in those classes nominated her for the award.

Kublu once lost her native language, so teaching it to others is personally meaningful for her.
Starting in the early 20th century, the Canadian government established racially segregated hospitals to treat Indigenous people for infections like tuberculosis. Children and adults received treatment, sometimes suffering abuse and neglect, for months or years at a time. Sent to one of these hospitals as a child, Kublu forgot how to speak Inuktitut while she was away.

But she learned her language again, thanks to her grandmother. That experience shaped how she teaches the language.

“I think I’m more able to see my language from an analytical point of view,” Kublu said, “rather than just something I speak.”

Kublu teaches Inuktitut for the UW as a part of the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, offered through the Canadian Studies Center. The fellowship supports students as they acquire a foreign language and conduct research related to Canada. In 2004, the Canadian Studies Center got its first fellowship application to learn Inuktitut. Since then, they’ve awarded 38 of these fellowships to 17 students. Many of the students are conducting research in the Arctic, where the language is spoken.

The UW is the only institution in the U.S. offering students the chance to learn Canadian Inuit languages and the only institution in the U.S. awarding the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship in Indigenous languages.

Nadine Fabbi, managing director of the Canadian Studies Center, says that Kublu’s award shows the high caliber of training fellows are receiving.

“This award just proves that Kublu is not only one of the foremost linguists in Inuktitut in Canada, but she’s also a good teacher,” Fabbi said. “I’m just proud that this is a caliber of teaching that’s occurring for these fellowships. It’s a boon to the program to see that our language teachers are also the top of their field.”