Claudia Falcon

University of California


Claudia Falcon completed her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). From an early age, she knew she enjoyed mathematics when her parents motivated her to participate in mathematics olympiads representing her native Cuba. After immigrating to the US during high school, Claudia was fortunate to have mentors that encouraged her to take advanced physics and mathematics classes and informed her about scholarships for college. She attended UNC as an undergraduate mathematics student, where her interest in the applications of math blossomed during her involvement in The Joint Applied Math and Marine Sciences Fluids Lab at her university, which is an interdisciplinary research lab, combining math and physics research.  Her Ph.D. advisors Professors Roberto Camassa and Richard McLaughlin left her with a positive experience as a mentee which makes her passionate about research mentoring. In 2016, Claudia joined the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as a postdoc of Professor Andrea Bertozzi. At UCLA, Claudia continued to mentor students during UCLA’s Computational and Applied Math Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and through research seminar directed courses contributing to UCLA’s Applied Mathematics Laboratory. With Professor Bertozzi’s guidance, she has been involved in fluid dynamics projects related to particle laden flows, fiber coating, tears of wine, and microfluidics. Her research interests continue to expand as she moves forward in her career path in academia.

Claudia Falcon’s research interests are in the field of fluid dynamics, differential equations, and mathematical modeling with a combination of analytical, numerical, and experimental tools . The applications of her projects relate to other fields in applied mathematics, such as mathematical biology and physical oceanography.  At UNC, under the direction of Roberto Camassa and Richard McLaughlin, Falcon studied particles settling through density transitions. In such environments, the particles can be delayed at the interfacial layer and the mathematical model is crucial for estimating  pollution clearing times and understanding the settling times of marine aggregates in the ocean. At UCLA, Falcon joined Andrea Bertozzi’s team to study the behavior of particle laden flows down an incline which has many environmental and industrial applications such as particle separators in the mining industry. Other projects include collaborations between mathematics and engineering at UCLA. From modeling systems of drop carrier particles through energy mninimization techniques to  studying thin films flowing down  vertical fibers as a tool for creating cooling systems and desalination equipments. Her skills has led her to collaborations in other fun projects such as studying the mathematics behind the tears of wine phenomenon, a project that has attracted much press in scientific communications. Falcon’s research model is a clear opportunity for interdisciplinary collaborations, undergraduate and graduate students participation, and applications to outreach initiatives.

Teaching and mentoring are significant parts of Claudia Falcon’s passion for academia, both classroom and research environments. From her graduate school to postdoctoral years, she was exposed to lecturing mathematics and programming classes. An important ingredient in her teaching philosophy is in-class participation and student engagement. During her lectures, she incorporates problem solving activities and space for students to ask and answer questions. Students are more likely to collaborate among themselves outside of class because they can relate as a group. This conscious effort to set up the classroom atmosphere as one of constant interchange of ideas makes the students more comfortable to ask questions when confused. As a result, her course evaluations always include a comment on the excellent class participation. Another mission in Falcon’s philosophy is promoting mathematical understanding at different levels by helping students to be curiosity driven when it comes to mathematics.  From giving research presentations at conferences to showing fluid demos to children and families at annual science fairs, Falcon constantly practices explaining mathematical concepts to different audiences.

Through her work in academia, and her personal trajectory, Claudia Falcon has been interested in providing opportunities to those students that would not otherwise have them. The exposure to research increases students’ level of confidence in mathematics and encourages them to pursuit a career in the STEM fields. Claudia’s own experience as an undergraduate research assistant and as a project leader in a lab setting prepared her to take on a mentoring role at a professional level. She has been known for encouraging students to join research experiences, through honors thesis, course projects, or summer programs.  Her ideas of  fluid dynamics research projects with hands-on applications attract students of different disciplines and backgrounds. In addition to research, her students learn writing style, presentation skills, and mathematical rigor. As a measure of their research impacts, she has co-authored manuscripts with undergraduate students, and many continue working with her, even after the research program has ended. As a consequence, many of her students go on to being accepted at top graduate institutions in mathematics and even obtaining the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Extending the concept of undergraduate research, Claudia has recently partnered with the program Girls Talk Math, a two week mathematics day camp for high school girls, to start a sister chapter at UCLA. She is fortunate that her field of research contains a wealth of problems that are interesting in to a diverse audience.

Hispanic heritage is a big part of my identity. In particular, the immigrant story highlighting the sacrifices made by parents so that their children could have a better future. Hispanic Heritage Month  means the celebration and recognition of all of the stories of resilience that makes us unique in our journey towards contributing to our communities. Weather it is escaping the Cuban dictatorship and starting from nothing in the U.S., or being part of a Hispanic American family for many generations, Hispanic Heritage Month showcases the union of Latinos from different walks of life and emphasizes their contributions to our community in our new country.