Talithia Williams

Nobel Conference 57

Talithia Williams

Statistician Talithia Williams works as an interpreter. She takes difficult and arcane concepts in mathematics and statistics, making them understandable, interesting and relevant to the rest of us. As the co-host of “Nova Wonders,” she Apropos the topic of this Nobel Conference, her popular TED talk, “Own Your Body’s Data,” is an argument for the importance of “small data.” Each of us, she tells her audience, should be using the tools of personal data collection--from heart rate monitors to step counters--to take charge of our own health. Her work on the PBS series “Nova Wonders” focuses on introducing future scientists and engineers to some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time. Rather than presenting answers, the series is “really opening the door and arousing curiosity and getting the public excited about the possibility of even trying to contribute to and solve some of these big ideas and big questions,” notes Williams. 

In addition to her work to make mathematics and statistics understandable to the everyday person, Williams develops statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data, and applies them to problems in the environment, She has partnered with the World Health Organization in developing a model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa.

Williams holds a PhD in statistics. Currently an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Harvey Mudd, she has held positions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NSA and NASA. In 2015, she won the Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is the author of Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women in Mathematics.