By Clara, Ceren, Zoe, and Jess
Dr. Candice Price had always been good at math. But when her third-grade teacher presented “Schoolhouse Rock!–Multiplication Rock!” to her class, her passion truly began. The 30-minute multiplication lesson inspired her everlasting enthusiasm for mathematics. It is this inspiration that drove her to be the accomplished female mathematician that she is today.
Education and Perseverance
While Dr. Price was in love with the subject, the idea of becoming a mathematician seemed impractical and even impossible at that time. Starting at a young age, she battled discouragement from teachers, pressures to make perfect grades, and the stress of competitive classmates. When Dr. Price had to retake a high school math class and start college at California State University with no experience in calculus, the dream of becoming a mathematician seemed even more farfetched. She began University with the idea she would not succeed in her college math classes.
But Dr. Price heavily underestimated herself; her resilience, her passion for math, and her desire to learn. The opportunity for college mathematics courses reignited her fervor. This was the same feeling she experienced during the riveting Schoolhouse Rock! episode she viewed at the mere age of nine! Lori Holcombe, her precalculus professor, immediately recognized how special Dr. Price was. She saw her potential and requested she take a summer mathematics workshop. The workshop was a pivotal moment in Dr. Price’s life. She quickly caught up to her classmates, and Professor Holcombe advised her to major in mathematics. This was surprising to Dr. Price as she never believed she could make it in the field of math. Moreover, she says the lack of black women in the field was disheartening, but in spite of this, Dr. Price decided she would become a mathematician. In 2003, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.
Shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree, Dr. Price participated in the Mathematical Association of America National Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (NREUP). There, she studied and completed a project on Knot Theory- the study of mathematical knots. Dr. Price says that she “fell in love with this kind of mathematics.” She would go on to study Knot Theory at San Francisco State University while obtaining her master’s degree and at the University of Iowa during her PhD, which she earned in mathematics in 2012. Dr. Price says her greatest accomplishment is earning her PhD. However, she knows firsthand how difficult the process can be, “Mathematics is actually a really hard journey, and none of us have done it ourselves, so find that community and support system that will help you do whatever it is you want to do.” She smiles as she recalls a story her mother told her; “when she was pregnant with me, she had a dream of someone saying ‘Dr. Price.’ So when I got mine [doctorate], she said she realized it was me that she was dreaming about.”
As of 2021, Dr. Price is an assistant professor at Smith College, and she has held similar positions at West Point United States Military Academy and the University of San Diego. Dr. Price explained that at Smith College, she “studies models of protein DNA interactions. I also look at evolutionary success, and I use Network Theory to think about how animals that are connected to each other support each other by grooming parasites.” She is a co-founder of the website “Mathematically Gifted and Black,” a source highlighting the revolutionary impact black mathematicians have made on the world. Dr. Price states that social justice topics and questions also interest her. She is a primary organizer of the “Underrepresented Students in Topology and Algebra Research Symposium,” an event that explores the stories of graduate students in mathematical fields. In 2013, she was an “MAA Project NExT fellow,” a program sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The MAA also invited her to speak at their MathFest in 2021. Additionally, Dr. Price assisted in the delivery of the 2021 National Math Festival address.
Dr. Price has already accomplished so much, but she is nowhere near finished. Her plans for the future are exciting! Alongside continuing her work with DNA and applied mathematics, she wants to inspire young people from marginalized communities to pursue STEM careers. Additionally, she hopes to continue highlighting people of color in the STEM field through her work at “Mathematically Gifted and Black.” She hopes that as a black woman in the field of mathematics, she can encourage aspiring mathematicians to persist because no matter what they look like, they can make it in STEM! She wishes to serve as the role model she longed for as a teenager.
Advice to others
When asked for words of wisdom to share with future mathematicians, Dr. Price suggests, “Surround yourself with people who support and love you and understand that you are talented and brilliant and amazing and will speak up when you need it.” Dr. Price still struggles with Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that one is a fraud and doubts if they are deserving of their accomplishments. Nonetheless, she continues to do the work she loves, serve as an inspiration to others, and explore the frontiers of mathematics.