Faculty Spotlight – Professor Rachel Ward

Rachel WardRachel Ward joined the faculty in the fall of 2011 as Assistant Professor and Harrington Faculty Fellow. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2009, followed by a two-year postdoctoral position at the Courant Institute at New York University. Rachel was recently awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship in recognition of her research accomplishments. Her interests include signal processing, numerical linear algebra, and statistics.

Rachel has a unique perspective on the mathematics department, as she received her B.S. in mathematics from the University of Texas in 2005. She reports that she loved her experience as an undergraduate here in Austin, adding that her best memories are from those years. She appreciated the diversity of the undergraduate population and felt very comfortable in an environment she characterizes as accepting and laid back. Rachel also describes an atmosphere in the department that encouraged her interest in mathematics and gave her opportunities to work closely with some of the faculty. One experience that clearly impacted her was a reading course she took with Professor Karen Uhlenbeck, who served as a role model for Rachel, as she has done for many other women in mathematics. Funding from the National Science Foundation through the department's VIGRE grant (Grant for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences) also gave Rachel the opportunity to do research with Professors Oscar Gonzalez and Rafael de la Llave.

As a faculty member, Rachel feels that the department offers a good working environment. She noted that there are many new, young faculty members who were not here when she was a student, and in particular she pointed out that a statistics program has initiated and grown significantly in the last several years, and Statistics will become a department in Fall 2014.

She sees aspects of the department that were not apparent to her as an undergraduate, most notably the degree of connectedness with other departments at the university. Rachel is a member of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), an interdisciplinary program at UT that fosters collaboration between departments. Through this program, she has established working relationships with electrical engineers, computer scientists, as well as other mathematicians. She has been actively engaged in the department's instructional mission and developed a new graduate class on analyzing large data sets, an area of research with important applications to today's society.

In her time as a faculty member she has been the recipient of several prestigious awards; for example NSF CAREER Award 2013 - 2018, and she was selected as a 2012 Alfred P. Sloan Fellow.

In Fall of 2014, Rachel is an organizer of a special semester on "High-dimensional Approximation" to be held at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM) at Brown University.

To read about some of Rachel's recent research on fine tuning evolution-detecting tests, please visit here.