Carnegie Mellon Places Second in 2013 Putnam Competition
For Third Consecutive Year, CMU "Mathletes" Place Among Top Five in Definitive Math Competition for Undergraduates in North America
By Jocelyn Duffy
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University has placed second in the Mathematical Association of America's 74th William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier mathematics contest for undergraduate students. Additionally, Carnegie Mellon had 35 students who 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 2013, 4,113 American and Canadian undergraduates from 557 institutions participated in the competition. 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. Results were sent to participating universities at the beginning of April 2014.
The second-place ranking reflects the scores of the three students selected to be on the Carnegie Mellon team. Students not on the official university team are able to participate and compete for individual rankings. In total, 163 Carnegie Mellon students participated in this year's competition and 35 placed in the top 442. Sophomore Science and Humanities Scholar Linus Hamilton and first-year mathematical sciences students Thomas Swayze and Samuel Zbarsky placed among the top 16 students.
The three students on the second-place team, Hamilton, Swayze and junior mathematical sciences major Michael Druggan, 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. In the history of the competition, only 13 other universities have placed in the top five more than five times.
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.