Carnegie Mellon University

Senior Simran Khunger Receives Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship

May 18, 2022

Senior Simran Khunger Receives Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

For Mathematical Sciences student Simran Khunger, her dedication and hard work have begun to reap rewards. Along with six of her peers from the other colleges at Carnegie Mellon University, she has received the Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Award.

“I’m really grateful that CMWA recognized the effort I’ve been putting in,” said Khunger. “Putting in effort and the work into making a change in the math department was a very meaningful experience."

Khunger has done her best to make the math department a more welcoming, comfortable place for undergraduate students, particularly women and people of color. She is a prominent member of Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM) chapter at CMU. Though the association was initially developed by grad students, she has worked to make AWM’s main event, weekly tea times, a comfortable place for undergraduate students, graduate students and professors.

“Tea in other departments is dominated by graduate students and faculty, but ours actually started out very heavily undergrad and has gradually included more faculty and grad students,” said Khunger. “I think it's really nice that CMU specifically has that nice balance between undergrad students, grad students, faculty and staff show up.”

The tea time has recently been sponsored by the math department, and Khunger is glad that others see the importance of events like these.

“Hopefully, it will be a tradition that sticks around,” said Khunger.

Besides being part of the AWM, Khunger has been a board member of the Math Club. As part of the Math Club, she took the board of four people and expanded it to twelve, with half of the board members being women. Khunger worked closely with the club to enhance their diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We just wanted people who were excited about making the math department a more diverse community and pointing out issues like diversity, equity and inclusion within the math department, which continues to be an issue in math across the board throughout the country,” said Khunger. “We need a lot of different voices and different perspectives in all disciplines. You never know where a good idea is going to come from.”

With Khunger’s help, the Math Club has enhanced its event offerings, which she said have high attendance. With the sponsorship of the Math Club, Khunger has offered workshops on impostor syndrome and office hours to assist students preparing for research applications.

Besides her work with clubs and campus organizations, Khunger has also poured her passion into her research and academic work. She has found a research area she is excited about: number theory. This area of math focuses on finding the patterns and distribution behind prime numbers, and it is used in other fields, like cryptography.

Khunger has collaborated on three papers regarding number theory. One is published, and two are currently on preprint sites. Khunger has been accepted to multiple Ph.D. programs, and she plans to continue this research throughout her doctoral studies.

“I'm really excited to work on a difficult research problem for the next five years,” said Khunger.

Maggie Braun, associate dean for undergraduate affairs, is proud of Khunger’s accomplishments.

“She embodies all that a student receiving this type of award should — she is a strong advocate for women in science and math, she empowers others to reach their fullest potential, and she is passionate about Carnegie Mellon and the Mellon College of Science,” said Braun. “I am incredibly proud that she is a member of our community!”

Khunger is hoping that her work will inspire other students. She wants to be a role model for others in math, particularly people from underrepresented groups.

“It’s nice that the CMWA noticed my work, so hopefully other students noticed and will think they can do something like this,” said Khunger.

The CMWA has been awarding scholarships to graduating students since 1964. The scholarships are funded by CMWA membership dues. CMWA membership is open to all women associated with the university.

Tris Jahanian is CMWA’s honorary president. Board members are President Stefanie Santo, Interim Vice President of Programming Rebecca Abrams, Vice President of Membership Terri Deasy, Vice President of Communications Meagen Fekos and Treasurer January Johnson.