Dr. Oliver was born and raised in Venezuela. Although he had a positive upbringing, it came crashing down when his father died of a heart attack; Dr. Oliver was 14 and his brother was 6. In search of better opportunities his family moved to Mexico. But, with his mother’s monthly income of $300, they struggled. In order to help his brother continue his education, Dr. Oliver dropped out of high school to support him.
What came after was straight out of a telenovela: Dr. Oliver’s mother fell in love with an American. With another family move, Dr. Oliver dared to dream of school again. However, being a high school dropout, learning a new language, and still with very little income, he had few options. Riverside Community College accepted and supported him where he was at, and Dr. Oliver was able to continue his dream of getting a degree. To even his own surprise, he graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. While his academic life was on an upward trajectory, his family life was in a downward spiral. By the time Dr. Oliver was applying to universities, he and his family were sharing a room at his neighbor’s house. Although acceptance letters rolled in, there was no feasible way to pay. Again, the dream of higher education was slipping away. Thankfully, the University of California, Los Angeles offered a full ride scholarship and Dr. Oliver was able to graduate with highest honors. From there he became a Math doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego. Being only one of two Latino students, he was acutely aware of how different he was. But, feeling the support from his family, friends and the Latinx community, he excelled yet again and earned his Doctorate of Mathematics. He went from GED to Ph.D. He finally realized his dream.
Dr. Oliver’s research focuses on two broad areas of investigation: 1) wave equations arising in general relativity and 2) math education. The problems of interest within the scope of Dr. Oliver’s wave equation research are the “blow up” of solutions to the nonlinear Kelin-Gordon equation propagating in an ambient spacetime corresponding to an “expanding” universe (i.e., cosmological). Additionally, he investigates “small data global existence” for solutions to semilinear and quasilinear wave equations propagating in asymptotically flat and/or in cosmological spacetimes. Dr. Oliver’s wave equation research is relevant for developing better models for describing how fluids and waves propagate in the universe. In parallel with this research, Dr. Oliver also provides opportunities for students interested in utilizing data to help study and close opportunity gaps for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students enrolled in STEM pathway courses. The key questions he aims to address include a) What are the most significant opportunity gaps arising for BIPOC students in the STEM pathway, and what help can be provided to narrow and close these gaps?, b) What are the barriers that students face after they pass a STEM pathway math course, then go on to enroll in STEM courses in subsequent semesters?, and c) Are there any opportunity gaps that become evident once data is disaggregated by race and ethnicity? These math education investigations could help to build a more supportive environment for BIPOC students in STEM.
In alignment with his math education research, Dr. Oliver has partnered with Dr. Olkin from the California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) math department, to develop a model for creating momentum for active learning at the departmental level through a Community of Practice (CoP) approach. This model focuses on empowering members of the community by providing easy access to active learning tasks, pacing guide, and teaching tips for the course. This model has been an important factor in helping to close opportunity gaps for BIPOC students in Calculus at CSUEB. Dr. Oliver is currently working with math department leadership at multiple institutions in order to develop local, sustainable CoP models in support of increased student success.
The majority of Dr. Oliver’s active research projects in both wave equations and math education involve students directly. His approach to student research mentorship aims to increase student access to cutting-edge mathematical knowledge in his areas of expertise. Dr. Oliver’s mentorship style is holistic and seeks to leverage identity and cultural background as core assets.
Dr. Oliver reminds students, “Find your support system.” He tells them, “If you talked to me when I was a freshman, you wouldn’t see a young man in the trajectory of a math Ph.D. and a future academic position. Instead, you would see a shy, quiet kid, willing to work very hard, yet desperately in need of guidance and support. I stand here today in front of you because I had the unconditional support of my family, mentors, and the Latinx community at large.”
“[Hispanic Heritage Month] means a chance to be inspired by the achievements of the Hispanic community. It's also an opportunity to participate in the rich cultural traditions of our community.”