VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) honored Villanova University Assistant Professor Alexander Diaz-Lopez, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, with one of its three Henry L. Alder Awards for Distinguished Teaching, which recognizes faculty whose teaching has been extraordinarily successful and whose effectiveness in teaching mathematics is shown to have influence beyond their own classrooms.
While this award is primarily for undergraduate teaching, Dr. Diaz-Lopez is active in graduate teaching and mentoring at the University and has been instrumental in developing programs that prepare underrepresented students for graduate school.
In announcing the award, MAA notes that Dr. Diaz-Lopez has been a leader in developing spaces for mathematicians to build a strong community. He created groups such as the Informal Department Lunchtime Gathering (InDLG), Community of Mathematicians and Statisticians Exploring Research (Co-MaStER), as well as mentored for the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM). Because of his devotion to building community spaces for mathematicians, Dr. Diaz-Lopez developed two programs to support students during the 2020 pandemic as well as support Latinx and Hispanic students.
Together with two colleagues, he also founded the NSF-funded DREAMS (Discovering Resources and Exploring Advanced Mathematics and Statistics) program. The program exposes students to interesting mathematics problems and teaches them about career opportunities and graduate school.
Dr. Diaz-Lopez helped to found Math SWAGGER (Mathematics Summer Workshop for Achieving Greater Graduate Educational Readiness), a program that helps students underrepresented in the mathematical sciences prepare for and succeed in graduate school. The program supported 29 students in forming a virtual community in the summer of 2020, a particularly challenging moment when students were in need of extra support. He is also a co-founder of Lathisms, a website that highlights accomplishments of Latinx and Hispanic mathematicians. In addition, Dr. Diaz-Lopez served the math community through his editorial work for the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Notices and two AMS blogs, including the PhD + epsilon blog, which serves as a useful resource for new faculty.
Dr. Diaz-Lopez joins Associate Professor Michael Posner, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who won the Alder award in 2012, making Villanova one of a handful of universities nationwide to have multiple winners.
Said Dr. Diaz-Lopez in the MAA awards program book:
I am honored to receive the 2021 MAA Henry L. Alder Award. I believe that, to a degree, we are products of our environments. I want to thank my parents, wife, and sister for providing a healthy and thriving environment during my life and for supporting me through all my work.
I want to take this space to thank the (s)heroes behind my successes. I would have not received this award without their commitment to creating environments where every person is supported and can thrive. In particular, I want to thank: Frank Morgan, Reyes Ortiz, Edray Goins, Ivelisse Rubio, Matthew Dyer, Pamela Harris, Erik Insko, Alicia Prieto-Langarica, the Project NExT team, Amanda Lohss, Kathryn Haymaker, and Peter Muller for their work and support to me and to the mathematics community.
Finally, I want to thank my students for being willing to be mentored, for teaching me (I learn from them as much as they learn from me), and for engaging in challenging yet rewarding experiences. At the end of the day, they are the ones who make everything worth it.