This fall the Math Department and the Pensby Center for Community Development and Inclusion sponsored "Uniform Convergence," a one-woman play that told the story of Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya and fictional Asian-American "Professor." Written and performed by Rutgers mathematics graduate student Corrine Yap, the play juxtaposed the stories of two women trying to find their place in a white male-dominated academic world.
Yap describes the play: "The first is of historical Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya, who was lauded as a pioneer for women in science but only after years of struggle for recognition. Her life's journey is told through music and movement, in both Russian and English. The second is of a fictional Asian-American woman, known only as 'Professor,' trying to cope with the prejudice she faces in the present. As she teaches an introductory real analysis class, she uses mathematical concepts to draw parallels to the race and gender conflicts she encounters in society today."
The performance, which took place on Nov. 5 in the Park Science lecture hall to a nearly packed house, was well-received by students, some of whose comments follow:
"Since I am taking Real Analysis and also being a woman of color, her story was very easily applicable. I could relate both to the mathematical point of view and also how she used the math to explain the challenges women of color faces."
"Having read the plot synopsis, I expected that the play would resonate with me, but I wasn’t expecting to be struck so deeply by math metaphors."
"I’ve also been interested in the history of mathematics since I was in middle school, and I appreciate that Yap is doing the important work of discussing the contributions of women in math. Her other role and perspective as a modern Asian-American woman in math is valuable in inspiring reflection on how the discipline still needs to change."
"The comparisons between the mathematical concept of reaching a limit and us as a society becoming wholly equal and accepting was fascinating and genius."
The play was sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and The Pensby Center for Community Development and Inclusion.