College of Science

Meet a scientist: Keisha Cook


Meet Keisha Cook. She is an assistant professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Cook earned three degrees from the University of Alabama — bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied mathematics, and a doctorate in applied mathematics and computational biology. We caught up with Cook and asked her about mathematics, Clemson and her life outside of work.

Q: What is your research interest?

A: My primary research area is applied mathematics and computational biology, specifically stochastic processes, probability and mathematical modeling. On the biology side, I study the transport of organelles in live cells. Mathematically, we simulate intracellular processes and develop methodologies to statistically analyze and infer the underlying properties that influence their transport. 

Q: When did you first realize you were good at mathematics?

A: Growing up, it was always my favorite subject. I taught my younger sister math before she started school. She was able to skip kindergarten. In third grade, I won all of the speed multiplication competitions in class. 

Q: Women have been underrepresented in the field of mathematics. Why do you think that is and how have you overcome that in your career?

A: I believe that as the number of Black women in mathematics increases, the more mentors and role models we will have in the field. I believe that students succeed and become inspired to pursue certain careers when they see and learn from those in the field who look like themselves and/or have similar backgrounds. I overcame this by finding a community of Black women mathematicians outside of my primary institutions by becoming a part of the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education Program for Women in Mathematics.

Q: What would you tell someone just starting in your field?

A: Find a mentor and be a mentor!

Q: What is one thing you wish everyone knew about mathematics?

A: Take your time to learn mathematics at each level. Mathematics builds on itself, so make sure you understand each level before moving on to the next.

Q: Why did you come to Clemson?

A: The environment was very welcoming and supportive. That was very important to me in the job search because it is extremely necessary for success. The school and department also showed interest in interdisciplinary research and collaborations. I will have ample opportunity to work on many great projects with faculty at Clemson.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: I think it is very important to share your knowledge and wisdom. You never know who is listening. You don’t know who needs to hear what you have to say. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” This quote stands out because it consists of two very important things that I value in life — teaching and giving. Always use the gifts you are blessed with to bless others.

Q: What was your first job?

A: My first job as a teenager was at Six Flags White Water in Georgia.

Q: What is the top item on your bucket list?

A: I would like to go skydiving.

Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I wanted to be a teacher. Goal achieved!

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