Carnegie Mellon University
April 11, 2018

Junior Andrew Kwon Recognized as Goldwater Scholar

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy

Mathematical Sciences honors student Andrew Kwon is the recipient of a 2018 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Given by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the award supports undergraduate students interested in pursuing research careers in the fields of science, engineering and math.

Kwon is one of 211 students to receive the scholarship, selected from among 1,280 sophomores and juniors nationwide. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books and room and board for up to two years.

Kwon, who plans to pursue a career in academic research in number theory and algebraic geometry, said he is excited to have his potential as a scholar and researcher recognized through the scholarship.

Most of his undergraduate research has focused on number theory and additive combinatorics, a branch of number theory that studies how sets of integers behave under addition. Last summer, through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation, Kwon conducted research under Joe Gallian at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on a newer line of inquiry in additive combinatorics. Kwon examined a recent mathematical paper that showed the existence of minimal additive complements in special cases. Kwon developed a conjecture that identified a new, relatively general property of complementable sets that provides insight into what distinguishes complementable sets and sets that are not complementable. Kwon submitted his results for publication in a professional journal, and, if justified, his conjecture could explain all observed phenomena in this area of study.

Working with younger students is another passion of Kwon’s. As a first-year student, Kwon took on the ambitious goal of starting a math competition for high school students from scratch. Along with six close friends, he established the Carnegie Mellon University Informatics and Mathematics Competition. The annual one-day competition brings high schoolers from across the country to campus to compete in a number of subject tests, written by Kwon and the competition’s organizing team.

“It’s something that I’m very proud of because it has really grown,” Kwon said. Participation has nearly doubled every year for the past 3 years, starting with 120 competitors in 2016, 230 in 2017 and 400 in 2018.

Some of the competition’s former participants are now students at Carnegie Mellon. “They’ve told me ‘your competition made CMU really stand out to me and it’s why I’m here now,’” Kwon said. “And I think that’s really incredible to be able to have that kind of impact.”

Throughout the scholarship process, Kwon worked closely with Carnegie Mellon University’s Fellowships and Scholarship Office.

“Andrew is both extremely talented and also very humble. That is an especially powerful combination,” said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education. “He has used his time at Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere to deepen his understanding of mathematics and to build relationships with faculty mentors. We have enjoyed the chance to work with him and we very pleased that he received this prestigious scholarship.”

Taking the time to write about his research and interests, personally and intellectually, helped Kwon prepare for the road ahead in applying for graduate school and fellowships. “The process took a lot of self-examination because it was the first time that I had to think about the math I liked doing and why it’s worth doing,” he said.

“The FSO is very helpful in pairing students with faculty members that have a good sense of how to write about their area of research and they are also very helpful in providing feedback on nontechnical aspects of the writing. I have to give a lot of credit to them for preparing me and other students,” said Kwon.

Another MCS student, chemistry major Sarah Simon, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation.