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Kieka Mynhardt

“Mathematics, to me is . . . the point where science and art in their most pure and precise forms converge. It is one of the most creative mental processes that humans are capable of, and the results can be beautiful and astonishing. It is the foundation of all science and underpins our entire modern, high-tech society.”
Kieka's Biography

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, at the foot of Table Mountain. After graduating from the University of Johannesburg I first taught at the University of Pretoria, then the University of South Africa, both in Pretoria, before relocating to the University of Victoria in BC. My area of specialization is graph theory.

I enjoy teaching and mentoring students and have supervised many graduate and undergraduate research students. I was graduate advisor of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UVic for 5 years. I am also a university orator – our task is to write and deliver the orations of the honorary degree recipients at the university convocation ceremonies.

Presenting my work at conferences. It can be a daunting experience the first time, and I was fortunate that it was standard practice in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Johannesburg for honours and graduate students to present their work to the whole department and to receive constructive criticism.

The creativity of research, and the satisfaction of discovering new results, is my absolute favourite part. I also enjoy interacting with students. They are so keen and enthusiastic! I find that very encouraging and invigorating.

Preferably something outside. As a South African I practically grew up “outside”. I enjoy walking, especially hill walking and beach walking. I also enjoy certain aspects of gardening, like planting things. I’m an avid reader of light fiction and biographies, saving the serious reading for mathematics papers.

My mother’s support in all my life choices and endeavours was, and still is, very important. Professionally, my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Izak Broere, encouraged me in my undergraduate years to do graduate studies and was a true mentor in every respect during my graduate studies and early career. My partner and co-author on many papers, Dr. Ernie Cockayne, was instrumental in my relocation to Canada, and the eminent Canadian mathematician, the late Dr. Ralph Stanton, was responsible for several invitations as plenary speaker at an important stage in my career.

Yes, as early as during my honours year I made an academic career in mathematics my goal…although I did not then foresee that part of it would be in Canada.

Go for it with everything you have…that is what it will take. You are fortunate that many prejudices against women in science and mathematics at Canadian universities have greatly diminished or even disappeared. It is a long, hard road for everybody to a tenured position, but a most rewarding career once you get there. Have confidence in your abilities, courage to face disappointments, and enjoy the journey.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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