Carnegie Mellon University
April 11, 2013

Carnegie Mellon "Mathletes" Place Fifth in 2012 Putnam Competition

CMU Team Places Among Top Five Two Years in a Row in North America's Definitive Math Competition For Undergraduates

By Jocelyn Duffy

Carnegie Mellon Carnegie Mellon PITTSBURGH-Carnegie Mellon University has placed fifth in the Mathematical Association of America's 73rd William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier mathematics contest for undergraduate students. This marks the second consecutive year that a Carnegie Mellon team has placed among the top five teams. Only 15 other universities have placed in top five more than once since 1990.

This year, 4,277 American and Canadian undergraduates from 578 institutions participated in the competition held 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 Carnegie Mellon 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 Carnegie Mellon 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. Carnegie Mellon'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.