This summer, a twenty-eight-year-old Filipina is preparing to move to Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s packing her things, finding an apartment, and attending orientation. But she’s not a student; she’s a professor.
Dr. Felicia Magpantay will be making history as the first professor of Filipino descent in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Manitoba.
Filipino presence in mathematics is not only a rarity in Manitoba, but in math departments worldwide.
“I remember when she came in for interviews, one of the things that struck me was her ethnic background and how very few I had come across in this field,” said John DiNoto of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Manitoba.
“We are proud to have her, and if this is a milestone for the Filipino community, we are ecstatic that we are a part of it.”
The milestone is even more incredible considering that the new tenure-track assistant professor is only twenty-eight-years old.
Born and raised in Manila, Magpantay left the Philippines at seventeen to study in Peterborough, Ontario as an international student at Trent University. After three years, she completed a joint major in Physics and Mathematics.
“My early experience with independence helped me to believe in myself more and work harder toward my goals,” said Magpantay. “Receiving my undergraduate scholarship to study in Canada exposed me to the many opportunities in academia that wouldn’t have been accessible to me in the Philippines.”
By twenty-five-years old, Magpantay had completed her Masters in Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario and her PhD in Applied Mathematics at McGill University in Quebec.
As a research scholar at York University and the University of Michigan, her main fields of study are functional differential equations and mathematical modelling with applications in infectious disease dynamics. Her research interests include mathematical biology, dynamical systems, and numerical analysis.
Attending math conferences, both as a presenter and a participant, has enabled her to travel extensively throughout North America and Europe.
She hopes that in the future, she will see more young Filipinos in math. “It would certainly be great if there were more of us!” Magpantay said.
For a warm welcome to Winnipeg, John DiNoto has already contacted Lou Fernandez and Lito Taruc of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM) to help her with her transition. “They were quite excited,” said DiNoto.
Magpantay’s pride in her Filipino roots is evident even in her online academic profile, where underneath her credentials, she includes the famous quote by Jose Rizal:
“‘Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kanyang paroroonan’ / ‘He who does not look back at where he came from will never get to where he is going.’”
As she gets ready for Manitoba, Magpantay is excited to begin this new chapter of her life.
“I am looking forward to finally being able to conduct research in my own terms, and to getting to know the Filipino community in Winnipeg!”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on July 22, 2015.