'Mathletes' Excel Again
The results are in. For the second consecutive year, a team of students at Carnegie Mellon University has placed in the top five of the Mathematics Association of America's William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier North American mathematics contest for undergraduate students.
This year, 4,277 American and Canadian undergraduates from 578 institutions participated in the 73rd competition, held annually in December. The students were given six hours to solve 12 complex mathematical problems using a combination of creative thinking and concepts taught in college mathematics courses.
The fifth place ranking reflects the scores of the three students selected for the CMU team. Students not on the official university team are able to participate and compete for individual rankings.
In total, 138 Carnegie Mellon students participated in this year's competition, and 30 placed in the top 500. First-year student Linus Hamilton, a Science and Humanities Scholar and mathematical sciences major, placed in the top 10.
"This is the first time in Carnegie Mellon's history that the Putnam team placed in the top five for two years in a row," said Po-Shen Loh, assistant professor of mathematical sciences and the team's coach. "It's even more exciting that this year, Carnegie Mellon has the second highest number of students with scores in the top 500, ahead of Harvard and Princeton. This reflects the breadth and caliber of talent that Carnegie Mellon has developed, and bodes well for our university's trajectory."
The three students on the fifth place team, sophomore mathematical sciences majors Michael Druggan and Albert Gu and Hamilton, are Knaster-McWilliams Scholars.
The Knaster-McWilliams Scholars program, which has been funded through the generosity of a physics alumnus and a mathematics and electrical engineering alumnus, is one of only a few scholarship-supported programs in the country that is also paired with an honors program that features increased access to faculty and early research opportunities.
"The Putnam results are a strong indication that Carnegie Mellon excels at attracting and educating many of the best young mathematicians," said John Mackey, associate department head of mathematical sciences. "As the department of mathematical sciences flourishes, we all take great pride in the success of our students."
Last year's CMU team placed second, marking a return to the top five for the first time since 1987, when the team placed third.
Previously, the university's team placed in the top five in 1949 and 1946. CMU's department of mathematical sciences in the Mellon College of Science will receive $5,000 for the fifth place finish, and each team member will receive $200.