“This past year carried its immense challenges,” Dominique Kemp says, “but I would remember Romans 8:28 — there’s a sovereign God who will carry us through very trying years and I will continue to follow what He has put before me.”
However, his academic path started out rocky in public school. “I wouldn’t care about my schoolwork. I would put together pranks. I had all sorts of behavioral issues.”
When his parents decided to homeschool him the following year Dominique’s attitude towards his schoolwork didn’t change. It wasn’t until after that first year of homeschooling, at age 12, that he things changed. “I had a pivotal moment, this stunning realization that I should care about my schoolwork.”
It was around this time as well that his father, keen on how his son spent his time, took his video games away. Dominique gravitated more and more towards reading and pursuing knowledge. The Bible also took on a new level of depth. “It came from reading Psalms 107 and seeing the real-life application of what David was talking about in that Psalm. I couldn’t necessarily give you an exegesis on it, but it really hit me.”
Then, going from homeschooler to Stanford University freshman was quite an adjustment. “I was now competing with kids who were born, it seems, with the world at their fingertips. I mean, Steve Job’s son was a member of my incoming class.”
His sophomore year was the most pivotal moment, and he was seriously contemplating giving up on his math major. But he posed the issue to the Lord — then as an ultimatum, and the response was an unexpected grant: a two-year prestigious research fellowship from Stanford (Stanford STEM Fellowship).
In 2015, after completing his bachelor’s in Mathematics at Stanford, Dominique was accepted into the PhD Math program at Indiana University.
It was providential that he was led to focus on a relatively new field of math, harmonic analysis. Even though harmonic analysis was first discovered in the 1850s, Dominique says it didn’t really become a legitimate field until the 1960s. “When you compare that to the rest of mathematics, it is very novel in that sense. There’s a lot of room to work and solve things.” His interest in this area led to the offer of a postdoctoral position at Princeton University and the National Science Foundation Fellowship.
He completed his PhD in May 2021 and is the first African American to do so in Mathematics at the University of Indiana. This fall Dominique is at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to further his mathematical research and is interested in engaging in outreach at both the high school and middle school levels, showing them real-world applications for mathematics.
“This past year carried its immense challenges,” the 29-year-old says, “but I would remember Romans 8:28 — there’s a sovereign God who will carry us through very trying years and I will continue to follow what He has put before me.”
Elijah Horton is a freelance writer based in Chicago.