Jamila Karrakchou KARRAKCHOU

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First Moroccan woman to have a PhD in Mathematics


  • 1984: Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics, University of Montréal, Canada
  • 1979 : Doctorate in Mathematics, Université de Bordeaux, France
  • 1973: Post graduate diploma (DEA) in Applied Mathematics, Bordeaux, France
  • 1972: B. Sc. In Mathematics, University Mohamed V, Rabat, Morocco.

Professional experience

  • Since 2015 : Part time Professor, Université Internationale de Rabat, Morocco
  • 2011 – 2015 : Part time Professor, Ecole Marocaine des sciences de l’Ingénieur, Morocco
  • 2010 – 2011 : Visiting Professor, American University of Sharjah, UAE
  • 2006 – 2010 : Professor, Ecole d’Ingénieurs en Génie des Systèmes Industriels, Morocco
  • 1989 – 2005 : Professor, Ecole Mohammedia d’Ingénieurs (EMI), University Mohamed V, Morocco
  • 1985 – 1989 : Associate Professor, Ecole Mohammedia d’Ingénieurs, University Mohamed V, Morocco
  • 1980 – 1984 : Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Montreal, Canada
  • 1975 – 1980 : Assistant Professor, University Mohamed V, Morocco

Academic Responsibilities

  • 1994 – 2000: Head of Mathematics section, Department of General and Technical Studies, EMI, Morocco
  • 1993 – 1994 : Associate Dean, EMI, Morocco
  • 1990 – 1992: Head of Department of General and Technical Studies, EMI, Morocco
  • 1986 – 1988: Head of Mathematics section, Department of General and Technical Studies, EMI, Morocco.


Your story with mathematics
Can you tell us something about your story? Why did you join the field of Mathematics? How did you discover your passion for mathematics?
Since my young age, I have always liked mathematics and I also had a very logical mindset. I had superior grades in mathematics in high school, and it was therefore a natural choice to pursue higher education in mathematics and start a career as a mathematician. I was actually the first Moroccan women to have a PhD in mathematics.

What fascinates you about Mathematics?
The logic behind solving mathematical problems has always fascinated me.

Has anyone influenced your decision to become a mathematician and how?
Although I already knew I wanted to become a mathematician, my parents and high school teachers have also encouraged me to pursue my passion and register for higher education in mathematics.

Were there any specific factors that helped you succeed? What challenges did you encounter on the way?
My determination was definitely key to my success. It also helped greatly that my husband shared my passion for mathematics, as we pursued jointly this path. It was rather challenging to prepare my PhD while raising two young children, especially as we were thousands of kilometers from our home country and our families.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you while working in mathematics?
I have been particularly touched when some of my graduate students from Ecole Mohammedia d’Ingenieurs honored me through a moving tribute, on the fringes of an international conference. That coincided with my 60th birthday, and it was a memorable event.

Career and Family
Do you come from an academic family?
My father has never pursued higher education, but he was a great intellectual, involved in a political party. As per my mother, although she’s illiterate, her intelligence has always surprised everyone around her.

Is it hard to manage both career and private life? How do you manage both?
Besides the period when I was preparing my PhD in Canada, it wasn’t particularly hard to manage both career and private life. In Morocco, it’s very common to have domestic help at home; also my mother lived with us for several years, and that was a considerable help, allowing me to focus on my career while spending quality time with my family.

Do you have kids? Tell us about balancing family life with work life?
I have 3 daughters, they are now adults and all have successful careers in various fields, but not in mathematics. A real advantage of being a university professor was that I benefitted from numerous holidays, which coincided with the girls’ school breaks, and that allowed us to spend quality time together, travel and enjoy various adventures.

Women and Mathematics
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? Did you ever have the impression that it would be easier/harder if you were male? How did that make
you feel? Were you able to overcome these?

The biggest difficulty I encountered was the lack of funding to participate in conferences or other such events. At the time, we didn’t have internet and therefore limited access to all the information available today. As a result,, sometimes I had to make sacrifices at the expense of my family, such as using vacations funds to attend an important conference. This is not specific for women though, but for all researchers at that time. That said, in my country and for my generation, unfortunately it was indeed harder for women than men to succeed, especially in a scientific career. It was a real challenge and I’m proud to say that I fought and succeeded.

Do you consider it necessary to organize special programs like Girl’s Day promoting mathematics for girls in schools? What else, do you think, could further be done to support woman with mathematics as their career?
Yes, it would be great to organize such programs. Mathematics is often associated with “nerdy” personalities and is not perceived as a very feminine field. Sensitizing young people, and in particular young girls, of the impact of mathematics on a vast array of fields could be greatly beneficial. Such fields include environment, health, economics and engineering, to only name a few.

Teaching mathematics, especially to non-mathematicians, can be a challenge. What is your strategy to catch and keep the attention of your audience?
As mentioned above, it’s important for students to understand how mathematics could be applied to various real life situations, and to different professional fields. My strategy to catch and keep the attention of my students is therefore to clearly demonstrate how some issues in fields like medicine, economics or others, could be solved through mathematics, by studying concrete examples.

What are your biggest achievements, and what are your biggest failures?
I am particularly proud to have been able to supervise students who are now excellent researchers in several Moroccan universities. I still have excellent relationships with most of them. For family reasons, I have accepted an early retirement and have therefore left my former job as Professor at Ecole Mohammedia d’Ingenieurs, which meant that I also stopped all research activities. That remains to this date one of my biggest regrets, and the solution I found to keep mathematics in my life was to teach as part time Professor in other private engineering schools.

Do you have a dream? Any particular problem you dream to solve now?
In the past, I had started writing some mathematics manuals, and my dream would be to resume that work, finish those drafts and publish the manuals.

Which advice would you give to young girls who want to engage a career in mathematics?
I would like to tell to all girls engaging in a career in mathematics to persevere and never give up their passion, and establish themselves as a reference in mathematics alongside their male colleagues. It’s important that they identify the various usages and applications of mathematics, for the day to day challenges.