Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a Cornell University professor whose efforts to increase the numbers of minorities and women in science and mathematics have received national recognition, was awarded a 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring at a White House ceremony on Sept. 11.
Castillo-Chavez, professor of biomathematics and chair of the Biometrics Unit at Cornell, is among 19 individuals and institutions to win this honor in the second year of the program, which is an outgrowth of the Clinton administration's science policy blueprint, Science in the National Interest. That plan, issued in 1994, addressed two goals: to produce the best trained scientists and engineers for the 21st century and to enhance scientific and technological literacy of all Americans.
"Science can serve the values and interests of all Americans," Clinton said in a commencement address this year at Morgan State University, "but only if all Americans are given a chance to participate in science."
As part of the award to Castillo-Chavez, Cornell will receive a $10,000 grant to be used to enhance mentoring activities.
"We are extremely pleased that Carlos is receiving national recognition for his ceaseless efforts over the years to expose underrepresented students, particularly Chicanos and Native Americans, to science and mathematics," said Cornell Provost Don M. Randel. "He has worked tirelessly to broaden opportunities for undergraduate students from around the United States and Latin America, as well as high school students from Ithaca, by bringing them to the Cornell campus for access to our outstanding libraries and computer laboratories and for training in how to solve real-world problems through mathematics. This is the best way to inspire new generations of scientists."
"As a world class scientist and mentor Carlos has enriched many young lives at Cornell and throughout the world," Daryl Lund, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said. "All of us in the college are extremely pleased with this well-deserved recognition of his efforts."
The awards ceremony was held Sept. 11 and included remarks by John H. Gibbons, assistant to the president for science and technology, and Neal Lane, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The day-long awards program included a symposium titled "Mentoring for the 21st Century Workforce," which included an address by Rodney E. Slater, U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
At Cornell, Castillo-Chavez established the northeast U.S. chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). In 1996, he became director of the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute at Cornell, a program sponsored by Cornell, NSF and the National Security Agency (NSA), with the support of SACNAS, which helps to recruit students. Its summer institute brings 30 undergraduate students from around the country and Latin America to Cornell for six to nine weeks of mathematical and theoretical biology.
In 1992, Castillo-Chavez was selected as one of 30 scientists and engineers to receive the first Presidential Faculty Fellowship. Carrying a $500,000 NSF grant over five years, that award recognized excellence both in research and in "teaching future generations of students to extend and apply human knowledge."
Castillo-Chavez came to Cornell in 1985 as a postdoctoral student to Simon A. Levin in the Section of Ecology and Systematics and the Center for Applied Mathematics. He was named assistant professor of biomathematics in the Biometrics Unit in 1988, associate professor in 1991 and professor in 1997. He has served as a Faculty in Residence for Balch Hall and as chair of the University Committee on Affirmative Action.
A native of Mexico City, Castillo-Chavez is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, earning a bachelor's degree in math and Spanish from the campus at Stevens Point, a master's at Milwaukee and a doctorate in mathematics at Madison. He specializes in mathematical biology, social dynamics and mathematical and statistical approaches to AIDS epidemiology and other epidemic diseases like flu, tuberculosis, Chagas disease and measles. He was a member in 1988 of the modeling group for "A National Effort to Model AIDS Epidemiology" and a member of the "Forum in the National Interest: World Leadership in Basic Science Mathematics and Engineering"; both groups wrote reports for the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is widely published in scientific journals.
When Castillo-Chavez was honored by Mexico City's Council in 1992 for his achievements, he told his audience, "We Mexicans are as capable as anyone from any other country. . . . Do not limit your dreams." Those are words he continues to bring to students who can be inspired by his message.