Department of Mathematics’ Honoured Alum Dr. Beverly Diamond Humbled by Recognition

Growing up in Prince Edward Island, Dr. Beverly Diamond [PhD/82] remembers always being good at mathematics. When she was in elementary school, she would take her math workbook home at night so that she could complete “a bunch of pages” before bringing it back to school the next morning. When her father would do Roman numeral problems with Diamond’s older brother and sister, she was able to come up with the right answers.

Diamond’s parents were farmers committed to their children’s education, despite the fact that neither had graduated high school. With that early influence, it’s not surprising Diamond went on to study at the University of PEI, earning a BA in mathematics and psychology.

Diamond next attended the UM, earning her MSc in Mathematics and Psychology. Her memories of going to school here include a nod to the extreme weather.

“Part of what stands out is the cold. I had this big winter coat, and I would walk to campus about 20 minutes. It would be dark when I’d walk in. I was in an office all day with graduate students that had no windows, and it would be dark when I’d walk home.”

Despite the cold, Diamond persisted, going on to earn her PhD in 1982, working under the supervision of Dr. Grant Woods. Her thesis was “Topological Spaces Possessing Compactifications with Zero-Dimensional Remainders”. She has fond memories of being in Woods’ graduate topology course:

“He was just an incredible teacher. The group got together and gave him this handwritten award at the end of the year that talked about what a great teacher he was, so the quality of his teaching definitely had something to do with my working with him.”

After writing several scholarly papers in the area of her thesis, Diamond shifted focus to the field of topological dynamics, which she found more natural to her way of thinking. For the uninitiated, topological dynamics is the study of asymptotic or long term properties of families of maps of topological spaces. As Diamond explains:

“Lots of physical situations (turbulence, weather patterns) are modelled over time, or as dynamical systems. I was working in lower dimensions than weather modelling requires, but people who work in dynamics will sometimes work on weather models and climate change to predict what’s possible.

“When you have input from outside the system that perturbs or changes the system, you can skip from more or less predictable asymptotic behaviours into unpredictable ones. In the big picture, that’s the grossest sense of how people would think about climate change and weather patterns.  For example, the jet stream skipping down to further than its’ ever been down before. The flow might be contained in some area of restriction until you have a parameter change based on external input, and all of a sudden, new behaviours are possible.”

Diamond’s career as an educator officially began in 1984, when she moved stateside to the College of Charleston in South Carolina. At that time, CoC was an up and coming liberal arts institution with a focus on research and developing research among the faculty. The mathematics department was particularly large, due to general education requirements.

What proved to be particularly helpful to Diamond at her new institution was the experience she gained back at the UM, when Woods facilitated her working with his students. Although she was only a grad student, she eventually worked her way up to teaching classes.

“That was a great experience for me to be able to do that before I headed off to a new job. At the time, graduate students didn’t typically teach there. That was an opportunity that wasn’t available to everybody.”

In 1996, Diamond was offered a term position as Program Director, Mathematics at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. The NSF is a funding agency comparable to Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in that it gives grants to non-medical sciences across the country.

“The two years I was there, the director of the math division (Don Lewis) was very focused on education, so he started a new program that was meant to vertically integrate research and teaching. Undergraduates were to work with graduate students, who were to work with post-docs, who were to work with research faculty.”

In her second year at NSF, Diamond was instrumental in writing the proposal implementing Lewis’ ideas with colleagues from her division. She was responsible for completing numerous site visits for the first set of awards. She valued the experience, as it gave her a sense of being at the heart of developing education trends in her discipline.

“Like everything else that is fulfilling, it was really challenging at times, but it was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed being pushed in that way; to understand what people were doing with programs; to understand the systems they were putting in place as well as the content of what they were trying to do.”

Diamond was Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and Visiting Faculty at Montana State University. She established a strong collaboration with a mathematician at Montana State and spent summers in Montana for many years investigating various problems and preparing papers for publication.

Apart from those posts and various sabbaticals, Diamond has spent her entire academic career at the College of Charleston. In 1988, she was promoted to Associate Professor, then to Professor in 1993. Diamond also served in various leadership positions in the Provost’s Office, retiring in 2017. She and her partner/husband of thirty plus years now divide their time between Montana and South Carolina.

Asked what she sees as the biggest change in her field, Diamond points to the more recent trend of Big Data, as well as the additional focus on applied mathematics.

Diamond reports she was humbled by her nomination as the 2019 Honoured Alumna for the Department of Mathematics.

“I was really surprised and honoured to be nominated for this. It came totally out of the blue.”

By Jo Davies

Careers in Science Panel and Roundtable
2020 Faculty of Science Honoured Alumni Awards

Recognizing graduates who have made remarkable contributions to discovering the unknown, inventing the future, and advancing the well-being of society.

January, 30, 2020
Marshall McLuhan Hall (University Centre)
University of Manitoba, Fort Garry Campus
3:30 pm- 5:00 pm

The event is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to learn about careers in Science while honouring exceptional alumni and celebrating their achievements.

A reception will follow. Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information please click here.

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