Katherine Adebola Okikiolu

born: 1965; place: England

Cambridge University

University of California at Los Angeles (1991)
thesis: The Analogue of the Strong Szego Limit Theorem on the Torus and the 3-Sphere
Advisor 1: Sun-Yung Chang; Advisor 2: John Garnett

Associate Professor of Mathematics University of California at San Diego

web page: http://math.ucsd.edu/~okikiolu/
office phone: office phone is (858) 534-2772

2002 Claytor-Woodard lecturer

Okikiolu comes from a mathematical family, her father is a mathematician and inventor and her mother is a high school mathematics teacher. Her parents met when her father left Nigeria to study mathematics at the same college in England where her mother was studying physics. Her father, the Nigerian George Okikiolu, has written more mathematics papers than any other Black mathematician. She is married to mathematican Hans Lindblad.

Okikiolu earned her B.A. in Mathematics from Cambridge University in England before coming to the United States in 1987 to attend graduate school mathematics at UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles). There, she worked with two mentors, Sun-Yung (Alice) Chang and John Garnett, and was able to solve a problem concerning asymptotics of determinants of Toeplitz operators on the sphere and a conjecture of Peter Jones, characterizing subsets of rectifiable curves in Euclidean n-space. She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA in 1991, and she has been exhibiting first rate mathematical abilties.

After her doctorate, Kate went, in 1993, to Princeton University where she was an Instructor and an Assistant Professor until 1995. From 1995 until 1997 she was a visiting Assistant Professor at MIT. She became a resident status in the U.S. at this time. Since 1997, she has been on the faculty in the Mathematics Department of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), first as an Assistant Professor. Also in 1996, Dr. Okikiolu spoke as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration for Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM). In 2002, she gave the Claytor-Woodard lecture at the NAM meeitng st the Joint Mathematics Meetings.

In June 1997, Kate Okikiolu was the first Black to win the most prestigous award for young mathematics researchers i the United States, a Sloan Research Fellowship. In 1997, UCSD promoted her to Associate Professor. The $70,000 Sloan Fellowship was not her only award of 1997. Here is a press release of the White House October 23, 1997, repeated the next day by the National Science Foundation.


Sixty young researchers have been chosen to receive the second annual Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The presidential honor is the highest bestowed by the U.S. Government on 60 outstanding young scientists, mathematicians, and engineers who are in the early stages of their independent research careers. The awards, which include a five-year grant of up to $500,000, are made by nine governmental agencies. Twenty of the awards are made through the National Science Foundation. ... The awards were established by President Clinton in February, 1996, in order to meet the Administration's goals of producing the finest scientists and engineers for the 21st century while maintaining U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific research.

Dr. Okikiolu's PECASE video project will now feature inner city kids teaching mathematics. The first video is called ``Negative Money'' and teaches children to calculate with negative numbers by using the example of debt. It is really a sort of math cabaret, and features kids from Enterprise School in Compton and will be completed next year.

Dr. Okikiolu has been researching the "spectral determinant" of a drum, which is essentially the number obtained by multiplying all the individual sound pitches made from a drum note. This number helps describe the shape of the drum. Although this area is largely understood in two-dimensional drums, Okikiolu is investigating the more challenging spectral determinant problem for three-dimensional drums. In a separate project, Okikiolu also studies linear distortions of drum notes and other types of signals. Research in this area may have implications for problems in quantum physics. For her work aiding inner-city children, Okikiolu plans to make a series of videos depicting model teaching lessons that emphasize real-world perspectives. Designing model dwellings and bridges, constructing useful articles such as clothing and shelves, mending bicycles and painting pictures are "hands-on" activities that Okikiolu believes can acquaint children with mathematical concepts and help them grasp the significance of numbers and measurements.

During recent years she has given many invited lectures:

  1. 1995: Lunds Universitet Matematiska Institutionen
  2. 1997, August at "Spectral Problems in Geometry and Arithmetic" University of Iowa.
  3. 1997, September to November.Visiting Program Microlocal Methods in Geometric Analysis and Mathematical Physics at the Fields Institute (Toronto) for Research in Mathematical Sciences.
  4. 1997, October at the Stochastic Analysis Year at MSRI
  5. 1998: Princeton University; University of California at Irvine.
  6. 1999, January's Conference on Singular and Oscillatory Integralsat The University of Wisconsin at Madison.
  7. 2002, NAM Claytor-Woodard Lecture. AMS Joint Mathematics Meetings San Diego

Kate is also atheletic and won the high school longjump championship (4.96 meters) for her school in 1985.


Research areas: Classical Analysis, Differential Geometry, Partial Differential Equations and Operator Theory.

One of Dr. Okikiolu's areas of research is geometric analysis, particularly the determinant of the Laplacian under smooth perturbations. In addition, she is exploring several fields in mathematics. Her work in elliptical differential operators is considered a major contribution, going well beyond what experts had considered feasible, given the current state of knowledge. The Annals of Mathematics, the publisher of her Critical metrics for the determinant of the Laplacian in odd dimensions, is the best American mathematics journal. Her Characterization of subsets of rectifiable curves in Rn , is one of the few foundations of the Fractal Instances of the Traveling Sales Problem.


  1. Okikiolu, K. Critical metrics for the determinant of the Laplacian in odd dimensions. Ann. of Math. (2) 153 (2001), no. 2, 471--531.
  2. Okikiolu, Kate High frequency cut-offs, trace formulas and geometry. Spectral problems in geometry and arithmetic (Iowa City, IA, 1997), 107--121, Contemp. Math., 237, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 1999
  3. Guillemin, V.; Okikiolu, K. Spectral asymptotics of Toeplitz operators on Zoll manifolds, J. Funct. Anal. 146 (1997), no. 2, 496--516.
  4. Guillemin, V.; Okikiolu, K. Subprincipal terms in Szegö estimates . Math. Res. Lett. 4 (1997), no. 1, 173--179.
  5. Guillemin, V.; Okikiolu, K. Szegö theorems for Zoll operators, Math. Res. Lett. 3 (1996), no. 4, 449--452.
  6. Okikiolu, Kate The multiplicative anomaly for determinants of elliptic operators, Duke Math. J. 79 (1995), no. 3, 723--750.
  7. Okikiolu, Kate The Campbell-Hausdorff theorem for elliptic operators and a related trace formula, Duke Math. J. 79 (1995), no. 3, 687--722.
  8. Okikiolu, Kate The analogue of the strong Szegö limit theorem on the 2- and 3- dimensional spheres, J. Amer. Math. Soc. 9 (1996), no. 2, 345--372.
  9. Okikiolu, Kate Characterization of subsets of rectifiable curves in Rn, J. London Math. Soc. (2) 46 (1992), no. 2, 336--348.

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