Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Meet Dominique Kemp, the first Black student to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics at IU

<p>Dominique Kemp poses for a headshot. Kemp is the first Black student to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics at IU.</p>

Dominique Kemp poses for a headshot. Kemp is the first Black student to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics at IU.

Dominique Kemp got his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Stanford University and came to IU for his Ph.D. in Mathematics. 

“I double majored in mathematics and physics at Stanford University until junior year when I decided to concentrate purely on Mathematics,” Kemp Said.   

Kemp was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan, and was homeschooled from middle school to high school. 

While at Stanford, he was part of the Administ Christian Fellowship, an organization involved in different volunteer and charitable efforts. Kemp also played the piano.

At IU, he tutored students in mathematics and while continuing to play the piano. Kemp hosted two piano recitals at the Bloomington Seventh-day Advetist Church and voluntarily played piano at nursing homes. 

“I was the closest the students got to having a Black mathematics professor here at IU when I was an associate instructor,” Kemp said. “In 2018, I believe, I became the only one in the Mathematics Ph.D. program when the last of the other two Black students departed from the program.”

Kemp described his journey at IU as interesting. He said there were no Black professors in mathematics at IU and he has been the only Black student in the Ph.D program since 2018.

“The combined effect of being the only Black person in the department and having a research area that was not represented well here, I do Harmonic Analysis and there’s only one professor who does work in that field,” Kemp said. “So taking those two factors of isolation just made this matter of underrepresentation all the more painful for me at the time.”

Kemp plans to do philanthropic work to support graduate and undergraduate students. He also wants to reach out to high school and middle school students, especially those from underrepresented communities. 

“I think a lot of students don’t go into math because it seems daunting to face the spectre of isolation, but I can play a part now that I have a degree,” Kemp said. “I want to create more awareness of Theoretical Mathematics because I think it made it harder for me because growing up I had no idea there was such a thing as Theoretical Mathematics research.”

Paul Kirk, a mathematics professor at IU, has known Kemp for 6 years, and describes him as intelligent and humble.

“He’s a super smart guy and very well trained. I've heard him play piano and he is very nice in all my interactions with him,” Kirk said. “He did really well here and let’s just keep trying and hopefully Dominique is the start of a beautiful story.”

Kemp will be doing mathematics research at the University of Wisconsin for the next four years, and hopes to be a mathematics professor afterwards. He wants to encourage anyone who is interested in mathematics, but feels discouraged that they won’t understand, that the field is worth exploring at the same time. 

“The light bulb does click one and the skill set that we gain in Mathematics Education is something that can affect our performance in other professions like law or business.”

Kemp will also be going to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, a research center for theoretical and intellectual inquiry, for his postdoctoral position. 

Kemp said getting this degree is his proudest achievement.

“No matter what happens for the rest of my life this accomplishment will always be the most important because I started off with very little encouragement and very little hope and it never seemed like it was going to happen until 4 or 5 months ago when I had job offers,” Kemp said. “So just to be striving in the midst of so much discouragement I don't think anything else I do in life will compare.” 

 



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