Duha Hamed

Name: Duha Hamed
Position: Associate Professor of Mathematics
College: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Mathematics

After her Ph.D. chapter at Central Michigan University ended, Duha Hamed decided to move to Winthrop University with her pharmacist husband and her twin boys. This would be “home” for her next chapter in academia as she accepted a faculty position in the Department of Mathematics. 

When Hamed is having a research day at the office, she draws strength from her small family and from the selfie photos with her students that she has posted in her office.

Teaching at Winthrop since 2016, the associate professor of mathematics has a photo from every class she has taught on her walls, even the Zoom ones taken during the pandemic.

There is also a notecard from a student. The Arabic inscription on the cover means “source of inspiration,” and inside the student writes about how encouraging and supportive Hamed has been to him.

Hamed’s success with students and her classroom innovations prompted her colleagues to nominate her for a teaching award through the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America. In March, she took home the Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College Mathematics Faculty Award at the organization’s annual meeting.

Helping Students Overcome Math Anxiety

One strategy she uses with students is to make sure she knows all their names within the first week. Another is to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to each class so she can talk with them. This is in addition to having the students fill out a sheet about their experiences and their attitudes toward math. “Those daily conversations really help to increase the students’ confidence in learning math,” Hamed said. “I don’t just want to lecture.” 

She uses games in class and makes sure to rotate team partners. “It is important to do group work. When students bond with each other, their engagement with math increases,” Hamed said, adding that in discussion, students can bring up how they approach a problem and any wrong answers can be corrected. 

Hamed uses these strategies and others to help students overcome their math anxiety which clearly shows in their grades. She also connects with students through extracurricular events by being the faculty advisor for the math club known as “NERD” (Nu Epsilon Rho Delta).

Youngest of Five Children

Coming from a family of well-educated Palestinians, Hamed is the youngest of five children. Her physicist parents were her first teachers, eventually helping her with physics and math. One brother is a surgeon, two are engineers and her sister is the dean of the pharmacy school at the Hashemite University in Jordan. “It is all about education in my family,” said Hamed.

In addition to her teaching, Hamed researches the study of generalized statistical distributions, which is about adding flexibility to well-known distributions using different statistical generalization techniques. 

Having a high-achieving family was what led Hamed on a journey towards her Ph.D. in the first place. “My only goal back then was to get my Ph.D. and make them proud. My goal now is much larger …. to present, represent and inspire!” she said. 

Colleague Tom Polaski, the previous chair for the math department, calls Hamed “the math department global initiative.”

Outside the classroom, Hamed finds herself engaging in stewardship. She is passionate about spreading awareness regarding immigrants, international students, Muslims and any humanitarian cause. During her years at Winthrop, she has led and participated in many cultural events on and off campus.   

“I lost track of the number of professional stewardship activities in which I was engaged in and off campus,” Hamed said.

United with her Mother's Spirit While Running

Recently she has been fundraising for a cherished cause by running and advocating for human rights for Palestinians. Since 2019, she has completed four marathons and three half marathons, raising thousands of dollars for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

Her focus has shifted somewhat since her beloved mother passed away in January 2020.

“I started doing more in her memory for her beloved homeland of Palestine,” Hamed said, adding that her mother was never allowed to return there due to conflicts with Israel. “Training for marathons is not an easy thing to do, especially being a busy mother, educator and a researcher. But the struggles my mom, dad and their families went through need not to be forgotten, and for that I find time to bring awareness through running.”

Now when she runs, Hamed finds herself united with her mother’s spirit while running long distances.

And she can confidently end each day thinking: “I am proud to say that I worked hard, put in extra effort and always delivered from my heart.”