Art & Photography / Engineering

Maria Klawe

“Any kind of person can be a scientist.”


Maria Klawe is a mathematician and the President of Harvey Mudd College. She uses math to uncover the structure of the universe.


Maria has been painting people and animals for her whole life. Sometimes she paints in meetings because it helps her be a better listener.

Maria Klawe: The Proof is in the Painting

Mathematician Maria Klawe solves hard problems and finds her way out of "the painting closet."

30 Seconds with Maria Klawe

We give Maria Klawe 30 seconds to describe her science and she discovered the structure of the universe.

10 Questions for Maria Klawe

Name one college president who plays Final Fantasy. You don't think there are any? Watch the video.

About Maria Klawe

Maria Klawe is a mathematician, computer scientist and the President of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. When Maria is away from her day job (and sometimes even when she’s at her day job), Maria creates beautiful watercolor paintings.

  • Greg Rice

    Wonderful and exciting to learn about President Klawe’s unique gifts. I wonder if she is involved in efforts to help improve successful teaching/sharing/communicating of all levels of math and science for those of us (I’d bet all of us) who naturally enjoy learning, but have been left out, due to traditions of rigid, didactic or rote teaching methods that operate outside of the basic flexible teaching used by most other subjects? – By failed traditions I include the teaching that even lets 50% or more of the top 10% of American high school math students who start in college on hard science courses, but then drop out of science due to the increased rigors of grade competition among the tiny faction of math students who have been naturally-attuned to the traditional teaching style – (I think those stats I got from book _The power of habit : why we do what we do in life and business_ by Charles Duhigg)

    Since I’ve learned that computer programming languages, at their core, use a language model – including direct parallels to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, as well as concise grammar or syntax – I’ve wondered if even this tiny kernel of information might be used to help in readjusting the “teaching” of maths to various learning styles of individual students (there are surely not an infinite, or insurmountable number of variations of successful learning modes, so no logical need to fear “big changes.”

    Wouldn’t such an approach more likely reach the hearts and minds of “liberal arts” majors who have facility with story structure, character development, the timing and ordered sequence of plot points, employing language to mete out words to reify these concepts? The essence of dramatic conflict and the balance of form and function in art and design qualitatively reflect mathematical functions, equations, operations and the principles and properties of association, distribution, equivalence, etc.

    I’d be happy to learn that I’m preaching to the choir, and that such programs have been in use for some time, reversing the statistics of under-representation of women and minorities (in this case meaning all but the smallest percentile of academic achievers). Meanwhile I’ll carry on trying to learn javascript, and work through books like _Calculus Demystified_, _Calculus for Dummies_, and maybe even David Berlinski’s _Tour of the Calculus_. I’m 35 years out of high school.

    • jacqui

      I totally agree with your comments. I dropped math 5 times in college and finally graduated 26 years later with the help of a tutor who drew a picture with me each time I got a problem correct. Rote learning is very painful for a great deal of students.