Playing with Braids

Playing with Braids
The Playing with Braids event welcomed mathematical scholars from universities across the U.S., as well as 16 female undergraduate students from the University of Miami. Photo credit: Emily Fakhoury. 
Supporting and promoting young women interested in the field of mathematics


By Deserae E. del Campo

For Mina Teicher, diving deep into the world of mathematics was a fluid process that began when she was a very young girl. “I grew up knowing that I could do anything that I set my mind to do,” recalls Teicher, a mathematics professor at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences. “When it came to math, I just loved it since I was a little girl.”

Willing to share her love of mathematics and support young women in college who are interested in learning how math plays a role in diverse careers outside of teaching, Teicher created the Playing with Braids event. The two-day conference welcomed mathematical scholars from universities across the U.S., as well as 16 female undergraduate students from the University of Miami.

“It was an amazing experience to be a part of this event,” said Sergei Gukov, a guest speaker at the event and professor of theoretical physics and mathematics at Caltech University. “Dr. Teicher is truly a role model for young female students who are considering a degree in mathematics. Through the Playing with Braids event, we provided the knowledge and understanding they need to consider mathematics in their futures. By developing this additional interest in the field shows how important it is that women are not left out of the conversation. It was an honor to attend.”

The event, created with help from the Institute of the Mathematical Sciences of the Americas (IMSA), provided female students with a basic understanding of braids in mathematical application, such as in areas like machine learning, topology, and cryptography. Playing with Braids was intended as an event to keep young women attracted to math by providing them an overview of how mathematics appears in every aspect of life, from health to transportation, technology, and security.

“I would like to thank Dr. Teicher and everyone who arranged the Playing with Braids workshop,” said Catherine Mulhall, Class of ’23, who is a math major on the applied analysis track. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and appreciate the work that went into the weekend. It was wonderful to meet other women in mathematics and hear the speakers discuss their topics so passionately. At the event of the weekend, I felt so inspired to continue exploring the world of mathematics and its applications!”

Teicher said that Playing with Braids was also meant to give young women who are majoring or minoring in math the confidence they need to stay in the field.

“Based on the data we see today, women are dropping out of mathematics throughout their academic careers for all the wrong reasons,” said Teicher. “It’s called the ‘leaking pipeline’ because they start on the path but then drop off at different stages of their academic career. One of the reasons is that they are intimated by the idea that men are better in math than women and, of course, this idea is incorrect. This special, female-only weekend event was tailored to overcome this obstacle and encourage young women who are talented in mathematics to pursue a career in academia, or in knowledge-based industries, and ensure they obtain fulfilling careers and economical independence."

Teicher adds that she is extremely grateful to UM friends and special donors, Zammy Migdal, Jose Szapocznik, and Emily Berlin for opening their homes and gracefully hosting the young women and the weekend speakers, as well as for the support from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Leonidas Bachas and Mathematics Department Chair Dr. Robert Cantrell.