Carnegie Mellon University
October 05, 2017

Math Student Anne Silbaugh Awarded Mulach Scholarship

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy

Mathematical sciences sophomore Anne Silbaugh won the 2017 Mulach Scholarship that focuses on supporting women in STEM.

Managed through the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Joseph F. Mulach, Jr. and Louisa A. Mulach Scholarship Fund was created to provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students who are attending Pittsburgh institutions and studying biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics or physics.

Silbaugh grew up surrounded by math, which inspired her own interest in joining the field. Her father, a middle and high school math teacher, challenged the family to crack logic puzzles over dinner and discussed topics such as the Fibonacci sequence at family gatherings. 

During one such family discussion, “I remember my uncle looking at me and saying, ‘Anne, math has the secret to the universe,’” Silbaugh wrote in her application. “I don’t know that I necessarily believe that math has the only secret to the universe, but I love the idea that the universe (and humanity, and life and everything mysterious ever) is this big unanswered thing that we can unlock through math.”

These early influences led Silbaugh to choose a university with a strong math program where she would be surrounded by people who share her fascination for math, beyond calculations and equations, as a way of thinking critically and logically to solve real-world problems. 

As a mentor for Carnegie Mellon University’s chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls, Silbaugh says it solidified her desire to pursue math as a career.

"It should be possible for students from all backgrounds to discover the simple beauty of discrete math, logic or any other advanced area of technical study."

The program pairs female college students with girls from Pittsburgh elementary and middle schools in after-school mentorship programs. With many of her mentees, Silbaugh found that math meant memorizing equations and facts; and the likelihood of the girls continuing in math throughout their education was slim. Silbaugh hopes to change this perception of the way math is studied and taught through her own career path as an educator.

“Math (and higher education in general) should not be something that is only available for those of us lucky enough to have had exposure to the fun, interesting parts. It should be possible for students from all backgrounds to discover the simple beauty of discrete math, logic or any other advanced area of technical study,” said Silbaugh.

“It can be tough for first-year students to compete for scholarships that are open to undergraduate and graduate students,” said Richelle Bernazzoli, assistant director of undergraduate research and national fellowships, who helped guide Silbaugh through the application process. “However, I knew from my first meeting with Anne that she brings that special combination of academic talent and strength of purpose. Her desire to pursue a career that empowers students from all backgrounds to excel in math is an incredibly worthy goal, and one that aligns perfectly with the values of the Mulach Scholarship.”