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Mohamed Omar, Alder Award 2018

Mohamed Omar of Harvey Mudd College is an outstanding instructor who believes active learning should lie at the heart of undergraduate mathematics education. His students have praised him for respecting their individual learning styles and for experimenting with non-lecture classroom formats. Dr. Omar’s signature pedagogical style reflects a desire for students to immerse themselves in mathematics the way a professional mathematician would. He helps them develop deeper understanding of complex material by including open-ended problems in his advanced classes, along with guided reflection, and rewards them for work accomplished during the discovery process and not just for their final results.

Dr. Omar’s concern for student achievement extends far beyond the classroom. He has created YouTube videos to help students study for the GRE Mathematics Test. He recently published a book, Number Theory towards RSA Cryptography: in 10 Undergraduate Lectures, that takes students through the proof creation process rather than starkly presenting arguments. He has also published several articles on the teaching and learning of mathematics as well as mentored over twenty-five undergraduates on a diverse set of over twenty research projects, several of which have been published in top combinatorics and algebra research journals. But what shone through most brightly in his nomination materials was his belief in inclusivity. He has been involved with organizations and conferences, such as BEAM: Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics and USTARS (Underrepresented Students in Topology and Algebra Research Symposium), whose aim is to provide opportunities for students from underserved groups to engage in advanced mathematics. His colleague Dr. Talithia Williams has said that Dr. Omar’s “...work is exceptional and his life inspirational.”

Dr. Omar has already won an Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT) teaching award for his creative contributions, and we feel his dedication, innovation, and focus on inclusion make him a first-rate candidate for the Alder Award.

Response:

I am grateful and honored to receive the 2018 Henry L. Alder award. First and foremost I would like to thank the Harvey Mudd community. The outstanding students made my creative endeavors in the classroom possible. The supportive, genuine faculty were instrumental in my growth and reflection as an educator and I am very grateful for them.

There are particular individuals who had a profound impact on my scholarly trajectory who I can not thank enough. Dora Di Rocco-Smith was a high school teacher of mine who noticed my passion for mathematics and supplemented it with extra learning, enrichment, and guided me toward summer camps and extracurricular mathematics programs. It is through these activities that my love for mathematics transformed into the pursuit of the career I now have.

Many professors in my undergraduate years were influential in my development, but my PhD advisor stood out by far in being a model for serving the students of mathematics. His devotion to students at the undergraduate and graduate level, and his ability to inspire and mentor students toward their goals, has always served as a model for me in my career.

Last but certainly not least, I thank my parents. Not only for their never ending love and support, but for directly shaping me to become the mathematician I am. I especially thank my mom for being the best role model I’ve ever had for working hard day in and day out, and my dad for fostering my love for numbers very early in my life.

Bio:

Dr. Mohamed Omar is an award-winning mathematician, nationally recognized speaker, and advocate for inclusion in STEM education. He is the author of over twenty peer-reviewed research articles in internationally recognized journals, and an expert on the influence of algebraic geometry and commutative algebra on problems in discrete mathematics. ​Dr. Omar is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. Before that, he was a Harry Bateman Research Instructor at the Caltech where he was honored with the Outstanding Teaching Award by the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Omar is a strong advocate for diversity in STEM. As a member of multiple underrepresented groups, he especially understands the struggles students battle throughout their college experience. To bring students into mathematics at all levels, Dr. Omar presents entertaining math concepts that illuminate how math concepts appear in everyday life. Dr. Omar has also bridged the STEM barrier for students by creating prep materials for national college-level standardized exams, and sitting on the problem committees of several national level mathematics competitions.

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