Rafael Ceja Ayala

Phd Candidate
Purdue University


Rafael Ceja Ayala was born and raised in a small town in Michoacán, México until he moved to Ukiah, California at the age of 13. His senior year of high school, Rafael became a Gates Millennium Scholar which provided him with the opportunity to attend California State University, Sacramento fully funded. At CSU-Sacramento he participated in the McNair Scholars Program, the Louis Stokes Minority Participation Program, and two REU’s which allowed him to explore research in mathematics and furthered his desire to pursue a higher degree. After graduating in 2018, Rafael joined the mathematics department at Purdue University and is currently working under the guidance of Dr. Isaac Harris.

Rafael is an applied mathematician whose research interests are in direct and inverse problems for partial differential equations. He works on problems that arise in physical applications such as medical imaging and engineering where one is interested in nondestructive testing since one wishes to recover information about the interior structure given exterior measurements. In his work, Rafael uses qualitative methods (otherwise known as non-iterative or direct or sampling methods) to solve inverse scattering problems.

As a scholar of color, Rafael understands the unique challenges of navigating higher education coming from a minoritized identity. For this reason, he has committed himself to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in academia. He believes representation can play a powerful role in student persistence and success, and as a result he has sought out opportunities to mentor undergraduate students of color. As a testament of his commitment to students of diverse backgrounds, he has become a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program mentor. Through LSAMP, he has mentored many diverse students each semester since Fall 2021. As a mentor, he is able to support students' involvement in research and encourage them to challenge themselves. Rafael was part of the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences and as a graduate student Rafael has worked closely with them as a recruiter.

"To me, Hispanic Heritage Month showcases mathematicians who not only have accomplishments deemed worthy of praise by the mathematical community as a whole, but also whose roles in leadership and mentorship make waves in creating pathways for present and future Hispanic/Latinx mathematicians.”