Mayleen Cortez-Rodríguez, born and raised in Southern California, is the proud daughter of two Salvadoran immigrants. Throughout high school, Mayleen enjoyed her math classes, but never seriously considered pursuing math further because she couldn’t envision herself as a mathematician. Despite people around her who openly doubted that she could “make it” in the math major, Mayleen pushed through, clinging to the strength and resilience passed along by her parents. Now, she is finishing up her 3rd year in the Center for Applied Mathematics Ph.D. program at Cornell University and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Mayleen is so grateful for the Latinx mathematicians, as well as mathematicians from other underrepresented groups, that have guided her and believed in her throughout her journey to the Ph.D. She hopes to do the same for others.
Mayleen’s main research area is statistics, particularly causal inference on social networks. Causal inference is a discipline that seeks to understand when we can make causal conclusions from data. Along with her advisor, Dr. Christina Lee Yu, and fellow Applied Mathematics Ph.D. student Matthew Eichhorn, Mayleen investigates causal inference settings where the outcomes of individuals can be affected by the treatment of people in their social network. Mayleen and her collaborators have proposed novel methods for estimating causal effects in settings where interference is present when the underlying social network is known as well as when it is unknown.
Additionally, Mayleen has also been involved in mentoring and service throughout her time as a Ph.D. student at Cornell University. In her very first year, through the Association of Women in Mathematics Cornell Chapter, she began mentoring a Latina undergraduate student who was considering the math major. Three years later, in May 2023, her mentee is graduating with a double major in mathematics and Environment & Sustainability and has accepted an offer from a Ph.D. program at UC Berkeley—Mayleen couldn’t be prouder.
“To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a beautiful reminder of the strength, intelligence, resilience, and accomplishment that we can find in Latinx and Hispanic communities. It is also a sad reminder that we weren’t always recognized or welcomed, and that even today we can find ourselves in unsafe and hostile spaces. Even so, I am glad we have this time and space to celebrate each other, as we should be doing all the time. ”