Sum of Success
[l-r] Linus Hamilton, Michael Druggan and Thomas Swayze
Carnegie Mellon University has been adding to its recent achievements in the premier mathematics contest for undergraduate students.
Not only did CMU's team place second in the Mathematical Association of America's 74th William Lowell Putnam Competition, but 35 students scored among the top 10 percent, the second most of any university.
This marks the third consecutive year that the Carnegie Mellon team has placed among the top five teams. Only 11 other universities have placed in the top five more than twice since 1990.
"Repeated success in the Putnam Competition makes Carnegie Mellon shine like a beacon, showing the extreme talent that gathers here," said Po-Shen Loh, assistant professor of mathematical sciences and the team's coach. "It is our hope that by bringing ambitious students together, they can work with each other to achieve success for themselves, the university and the region."
In December, more than 4,000 American and Canadian undergraduates from 557 institutions were given six hours to solve 12 complex problems relying on creative thinking and mathematics concepts. Results were sent to participating universities at the beginning of April.
CMU's official university team included sophomore Science and Humanities Scholar Linus Hamilton, first-year mathematical sciences student Thomas Swayze and junior mathematical sciences major Michael Druggan. An additional 160 other CMU students participated in this year's competition.
"It's not the six-hour test that's important," Hamilton said. "It's chatting with your friends about the problems afterward."
The official team members are all 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 also is paired with an honors program that features increased access to faculty and early research opportunities.
"Our standings in the Putnam Competition paired with our innovative academic and scholarship program bring the best young minds to Carnegie Mellon. It's exciting for us to watch these students succeed, and we can only guess that they will continue to exceed our expectations not only while they are students, but also as they venture into the workforce," said John Mackey, associate head of the Mathematical Sciences Department.
The Carnegie Mellon team placed fifth in 2012 and second in 2011, and had top five finishes in 1987, 1949 and 1946.
Carnegie Mellon's Department of Mathematical Sciences in the Mellon College of Science will receive $20,000 for the second-place finish, and each team member will receive $800.