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Omayra Y. Ortega is an Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics at Sonoma State University in Sonoma County, California.  She earned her Ph.D. (2008) and an M.S. (2005) in applied mathematics and computational sciences from the University of Iowa, where she also was awarded her Masters of Public Health.  She earned a B.A. in music and in pure mathematics from Pomona College in 2001. 

Dr. Ortega has directed the Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group (MERG), an undergraduate research group, since 2007. Her scholarly interests reflect her expertise in mathematics: mathematical and computational biology, mathematical epidemiology in developing countries, infectious disease epidemiology, and the participation of women and minorities in sciences.  Regarding the latter, she has organized an annual Sonia Kovalesky High School Mathematics Day at several institutions including the University of Iowa, ASU’s West campus, Pomona College, and Sonoma State University in recognition of the day’s namesake, Sonia Kovalevsky, who was one of the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. 

Dr. Ortega is currently the President of the National Association of Mathematicians Inc. (NAM), a non-profit professional organization in the mathematical sciences with a mission and purpose of promoting excellence in the mathematical sciences and promoting the mathematical development of all underrepresented minorities. She previously served as the editor of the NAM newsletter and was one of the NAM contributors to the MAA Math Values Blog.


In her free time Dr. Ortega enjoys the outdoors and the fiber arts.


The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) Spring 2023

Serina Cabrera, Dirk Tolson III, Salvador Ochoa Zavalza, Madelyn Elena Williams, Anabel Camerena, Sydney Hernandez, Joseph Immel, and Dr. Ortega


The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) Fall 2022 at the 2022 NAM MATHFest

(l to r) Dirk Tolson III, Anabel Camarena, Salvador Ochoa Zavalza, Dr. Ortega, Serina Cabrera, Madelyn Elena Williams; Sydney Hernandez and Joseph Immel (not yet MERG members in F'22). Nathan Hedge (not pictured.)


The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) Spring 2022

(top row l to r) Dirk Tolson III, Geoffrey Knoll, Salvador Ochoa Zavalaza, Nathan Hedge, (bottom l to r) Jeremiah Sailor, Serina Cabrera, Madelyn Elena Williams, and Dr. Ortega

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The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) Fall 2021

(l to r) Dustin Yan, Geoffrey Knoll, Dr. Ortega, Serina Cabrera, Dirk Tolson III

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The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) 2019-2020

(l to r) Dr. Ortega, Kelsey Centurino, Christina Lynch,

Monica Morales, Ana Tongilava, and Therese Acevedo

photo by Bruce Rhodewalt

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The Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group

(MERG) 2020-2021

(l to r) Beverly Lincoln (MERG alum), Dr. Ortega, Alexander Carter, Fabian Ramirez (MERG alum), Serina Cabrera, Kelsey Centurino, Dirk Tolson III



Mathematical Modeling

Using tools from statistics, differential equations, dynamical systems, stochastic processes, public health, and epidemiology to mitigate emerging issues in healthcare and public health.


University of Iowa

PhD Applied Mathematics & Computational Sciences (2008)

MPH Master's Degree in Public Health with a concentraion in Biostatistics (2005)

MS Applied Mathematics & Computational Sciences (2005)

Broadening the Participation of Underrepresented Minorities in STEM

1996 - 2001

Pomona College

BA Pure Mathematics (2001)

BA Music Performance (2001)

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