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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Four women receive Ph.D’s. in math
at URI graduate ceremonies

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 21, 2003 -- Women who pursue math studies have long been in the minority. For example, since 1992 the percent of women earning doctorates in this country has ranged from 24 percent to 31 percent, according to the American Mathematical Society.

But at the University of Rhode Island this spring, it’s men who aren’t part of the count. The only Ph.D.s in mathematics awarded by URI last Saturday went to women: Stephanie Costa of Cranston, Carol Overdeep of Middletown, Mihaela Predescu of Providence, and Carol Gibbons of East Greenwich. (Pictured below left to right.)

Only Overdeep ever had a tinge of math anxiety and only during a graduate measure theory course.

All four women not only claim to enjoy, but excel at things that count. "Math is just so cool," comments Overdeep who has accepted a faculty position at Western Oregon University. "Everything fits together and you can’t prove things that just aren’t true."

The graduates range in age from 27 to 60. Gibbons and Costa are born and bred Rhode Islanders, Overdeep was born in Bremerton, Wash. Predescu was born in Targoviste, a city located 35 miles from Bucharest, Romania.

"Along the way, I realized that I genuinely enjoy teaching mathematics," says Predescu who will become an assistant professor in the Mathematics Department at Bentley College, Waltham, Mass. this fall. She plans to continue her research in nonlinear difference equations. "It’s a very rich and appealing area of mathematics. These equations are not only important in their own right, but they also model various phenomena in biology, economics, ecology, etc.," the 30-year-old says.

Gibbons has been a faculty member of Salve Regina University in Newport for the past 13 years and will remain there. Her advanced degree will raise her rank and salary. Gibbons says her six children ranging in age from 24 to 37 are her biggest boosters.

Costa, 27, has a seven-month-old son. After earning an undergraduate and master’s degree from URI, she worked as an actuary for a year before deciding to return to URI to earn her doctorate so that she could teach at the college level.

Like her classmates, Costa never had a problem being female in the male dominated discipline. "Even at seminars and conferences, I always have felt I was treated as an equal. The math takes precedent," she says.

Most of the women had men for role models and all say they enjoyed much support and encouragement from URI’s Mathematics Department faculty.

Overdeep, however, did have a woman math role model. "My mom, Doris Boyd, chose to be a stay-at-home mom and did the bookkeeping at home so I saw that women could work with numbers."

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