Have you ever wondered how many different ways your life could have turned, if you made one or two different choices? Math has you covered! Graph theory examines the nature of interlinked systems and what to expect from a random journey through one of these networks, like the internet. One woman in STEM whose had a successful career in this exciting field is Dr. Fan Chung.
Chung was born on October 9, 1949, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She loved geometry and enjoyed solving puzzles. Her father, an engineer, encouraged her to pursue a career in mathematics because it would give her the flexibility to branch into other STEM fields later.
She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the National Taiwan University in 1970. She moved to the United States to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed a Master of Science degree in 1972 and her Ph.D. in 1974.
According to her research advisor, Dr. Herbert Wilf, she had the highest score on the qualifying exam for her graduate class and produced results related to Ramsey Theory in just one week.
After completing her graduate degrees, Chung started working as a technical staff member at Bell Laboratories.
She was promoted to the Director of the Division of Mathematics for Bell Communications in 1983, and became a Bellcore Fellow in 1991. That same year, she became a visiting professor at Harvard University. In 1995, she became a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later, she accepted a professorship in Mathematics, as well as Computer Science and Engineering, at the University of California in San Diego.
She served as the Akamai Chair in Internet Mathematics and the Paul Erdős Professor in Combinatorics. She’s published over 200 papers and is the author of three books.
Chung has won many awards and honors for her outstanding work. She won the Allendoefer Award from the Mathematical Association of America in 1990, and the Euler Medal from the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications in 2017. She became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002, and a Fellow of the American Mathematics Society in 2013. In 2016, she received one of the highest honors available to scholars in Taiwan: she was elected as an Academician in the Academia Sinica.
She’s also served as Editor-in-Chief for six years on Advances in Applied Mathematics, eight years on Internet Mathematics, and nine years (and counting) on the Journal of Combinatorics.
Chung retired from UC San Diego in 2016, but continues to mentor young mathematicians as a part-time research professor.
When asked her advice for young women pursuing mathematics as a career, Chung said, “My answer is simple: don’t be intimidated.
In mathematics, you can build up one step at a time. Once you do it, it’s yours. It is a big area, and no one knows everything.”
Are you interested in empowering women in the STEM fields? The Women in Science (Wi-Sci) group wants you! Email President Lauren Higgins (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.