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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician--Where Are They Now?
"It was certainly one of the highlights of my time in high school, the competition as well as the great support I got from my classmates for it." Dragos Ilas, 2004 and 2005 contestant
Here's a chance to catch up with some former Who Wants to Be a Mathematician contestants, from Alden Adolph to Ben Zauzmer. They're a very successful group and it's a pleasure to know them. They wrote to us in the summer of 2012 about what they're doing now.
Alden Adolph * Cory Colbert * Andrew Ding * Rebecca Easterwood * Abraham Engle * Anthony Grebe * Dragos Ilas * James Kingsley * Holden Lee * Kathy Lin * Ofir Nachum * Richard Spence * Daniel Sun * Noah Taylor * David Wise * Xiaotian Wu * Andrew Xu * Charles Xu * Kevin Yin * Ben Zauzmer
Alden Adolph winner of $2000 and a TI-Nspire at the game at the 2007 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans
Cory Colbert winner of $2000 and a TI-Nspire at the at the 2009 SACNAS National Conference in Dallas
Andrew Ding winner of $3000 and a TI-Nspire at the 2009 Arnold Ross Lecture in Augusta, GA
I spent the money on a trip to Spain that was sponsored by my school. It was pretty fun despite the rain. Spain was a really nice place for a vacation.
Right now, I just finished my second year as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. I am definitely still involved in mathematics, in fact, I plan on majoring in it. However, I have not written any papers or have a website or anything, although I am doing a little bit of research on algebraic geometry this summer. I have met some really intelligent post-docs and professors here at UChicago, and perhaps in a few years, I'll have some papers and my own website as a graduate student.
Rebecca Easterwood contestant at the first national contest at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, winner of Five-Minute Mathematics and $500
I am currently a junior with a 4.0 GPA at Jacksonville State University. I am studying for a degree in Dietetics. During the school year I work as a tutor for the Academic Center for Excellence where I tutor biology, algebra, statistics, English, and nutrition courses. I really enjoyed my experiences with the Who Wants To Be a Mathematician competition in San Francisco. I remember being nervous before the competition and feeling like I didn't quite fit in with the group involved. However, it was a very good growing experience.
Abraham Engle who won $2000 and a TI-Nspire at the 2010 SACNAS National Conference in Anaheim, CA
Anthony Grebe runner-up at the 2011 national game in New Orleans, winner of $3000 and a TI-Nspire
Dragos Ilas winner of $500 at the 2005 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta and of $2000 and Maple 9.5 at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, GA in 2004
I'm glad to see that the Who Wants to be a Mathematician contest is still going strong. It was certainly one of the highlights of my time in high school, the competition as well as the great support I got from my classmates for it. I am now a graduate student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville studying the math of crystal structures.
James Kingsley winner of a TI-Nspire graphing calculator at the 2007 Arnold Ross Lecture at the Museuem of Science in Boston
I'm now a PhD student in physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I'm working on computational fluid dynamics, specifically stochastic rotation dynamics. I spent the last two years putting together my software, and am now starting to use it for real-world problems, such as infertility and HIV, in conjunction with Harvard Med.
Holden Lee winner of $2000 and a TI-89 graphing calculator at George Washington University in 2007
Kathy Lin, contestant at the first national contest at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, winner of $667 and What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, and winner of a TI-Nspire at the University of New Mexico in 2007
I'm doing well these days, and I'm glad to hear the games are still going strong. I attend Harvard University and will be a junior next year. I am studying chemical and physical biology with a minor in computer science, so the math knowledge I accumulated in high school is definitely paying off. From the competition, I vividly remember when I answered a question correctly about the Poincaré conjecture and you asked me how I knew the answer. For some reason, that caught me so off guard that I said something completely incoherent. Afterwards, the winnings went mostly to help pay for college.
Ofir Nachum, contestant at the first national contest at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, winner of $1000 and Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis
Richard Spence, a three-time contestant: at the 2012 national competition at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, and at the 2011 national competition at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans, at which his combined winnings were $1000 and two copies of Five-Minute Mathematics, and at the University of Arizona in 2008, when he won $3000 and a TI-Nspire
Yes, I do remember the competitions vividly--for some reason I was too nervous and made silly mistakes (even though I solved all the problems correctly afterwards, except for the Sudoku one).
Right now, I'm in Los Angeles at Accord Institute's A* Summer Math Camp, held at CSU-Northridge. Last week I taught AMC10-12 number theory classes, and next week I'll be teaching MATHCOUNTS geometry. Additionally, a few other students and I are writing MATHCOUNTS, AMC, and AIME problems for future mock exams. In August, I'll be going to MIT for my undergraduate studies.
In terms of Scrabble, I've only played in a couple local tournaments since last January, and it'll probably be a few years before I'll be able to play in Div. 1 at Nationals. I'll try to hook up with the Boston or Cambridge Scrabble clubs. [Richard finished fourth and second in the 2010 and 2011 National Scrabble tournaments.]
Daniel Sun winner of $2500 and a TI-Nspire at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
It certainly was a great pleasure participating in Who Wants to be a Mathematician. I would have loved to attend this year's competition in DC as well as the Rubik's Cube competition (I qualified for our school team this year), but unfortunately, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) World Championships was at the same time. But I heard my good friends Victor Ying and Jake Koenig did very well. Last summer, I interned at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, more specifically the nuclear reactor in the NIST Center for Neutron Research. Right now, I am working for a startup company doing programming.
I remember the competition very well. My family as well as my teacher, Ms. Loomis, were both in the audience to cheer me on. I remember three questions the best, the one I got wrong, the tiebreak, and the 2k question. The question I got wrong I remember spending a couple of tries on afterwards involved the radius of an inscribed circle given the x and y intercepts. The tiebreak question involved writing squares as the sum of squares? I remember the answer being it was impossible and the excitement that followed.
I was much more relaxed than probably the others since I really enjoy high-pressure situations and competitions. The George Washington University Colonial Bowl, a 4-person team buzzer competition, really gave me good practice for high-speed thinking.
I will be pursuing a major in computer engineering at the University of Maryland, but I am also trying to get as many math and physics courses in as well. I believe I can handle a math minor if not another major.
I'm very thankful you gave me the chance to participate in such a great competition, it is a shame I could only go once. I think it is great that you are still keeping in touch with former participants.
Noah Taylor, contestant at the national competition at the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans, winner of $1000 and Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis
David Wise, contestant at the national competition at the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans, winner of $750 and What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences
"Being part of WWTBAM was a great memory for me. I remember looking at the web page the summer before and thinking how much fun it would be to qualify. My family and I really enjoyed the trip to New Orleans, and it was enjoyable to get to participate in such a unique math contest."
I think I was fairly relaxed during the game, but I was concentrating pretty hard. I remember trying to solve the questions during the first round before I was up. I remember one question involved having to determine whether pi squared or 10 was bigger quickly, that there was a question about counting the number of paths in some pattern that passed through a red dot, and I think the last one was about digits of numbers, and I forgot that divisors of 9 (bigger than 1) worked so I thought 9 was the only answer, but 3 also worked.
Right now I double-majoring in math and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. I received a full-tuition math scholarship there. Four other freshmen and I there were placed into the sophomore Honors math courses, which were an abstract algebra class and a real analysis class, so my math classes were challenging for me but I learned a lot from it. I tied for 19th place in the Virginia Tech Regional Math Contest for college students . This summer I'm doing computer science research with a professor in the area of keystroke dynamics: trying to identify users and learn things about them based on their typing rhythms. A bunch of math is involved in the statistical analysis and machine-learning aspects of it.
Being part of WWTBAM was a great memory for me. I remember looking at the web page the summer before and thinking how much fun it would be to qualify. My family and I really enjoyed the trip to New Orleans, and it was enjoyable to get to participate in such a unique math contest. It was also really great to be able to attend the Joint Mathematics Meetings--I heard several talks and was able to see some interesting books and displays.
I am now a sophomore at Dartmouth College studying biomedical engineering. I remember the competition day very vividly , especially the final bonus trig question since I did not answer it correctly and missed the $2000 prize. However, the $1000 that I won went to my mother, as I promised! And I am actively using the TI-Nspire calculator that I won as well! The competition was a wonderful experience for me and I hope it brings enjoyment, confidence, and challenge to high school students for many years to come.
Andrew Xu, winner of $3000 and a TI-Nspire at the University of British Columbia in October 2010
I am studying engineering science at University of Toronto (first year). The preferred option is biomedical engineering and financial engineering. The money that my helper/partner/whatever Larry Liu and I won, was spent to treat our friends^_^, as Larry said he would spend on donuts and we needed lots of friends to eat up the 3000 USD donuts.
I would like to thank you again for the opportunity.
Charles Xu, contestant at the first national contest at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, winner of $1000 and Maple 13
I'm at once glad that my wisecracks from two years ago are still remembered in some parts, and disappointed that they haven't since been superseded by even more uproarious onstage antics. I felt at the time that I could loosen up, knowing full well that I was surrounded by people whom I recognized (from MOP) to be much smarter than me, and that I should be content with whatever place I ended up getting.
This attitude also served me in good stead during my freshman year at MIT. I'm currently majoring in physics, though planning on doubling in math as early as possible starting next year. And I approach both with the mindset that people all around me are outclassing me all the time, even in the fields that interest me most, and that my focus should be on doing what I love and enjoying my time there. To that end I joined the Theta Xi fraternity, an experience I've so far found incredibly rewarding and well worth the considerable time I've invested.
This summer I've returned to Boulder, CO on a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), splitting my time between quantum simulation and information processing in a Penning ion trap at NIST and theoretical work on entanglement in open spin systems at CU Boulder.
Kevin Yin, contestant at the first national contest at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, winner of $667 and Five-Minute Mathematics, and winner of Maple 12 at Cal State Fullerton in 2008
The question I remember most distinctly from WWTBAM [in 2010] was the one involving counting ~20 primes, which was not really feasible in the short time limit we were given. All of us guessed a random answer, and I happened to get lucky. I'm currently enrolled as a to-be-sophomore in Caltech as a math major, but I also have interests in other fields such as physics and biology. Over the summer, I'm doing work in biology in Caltech's Elowitz lab.
In June 2012, I served as a proctor at ARML Penn State, affiliated with my alma mater Lehigh Valley Fire, which gave me the chance to see Mike and Bill again! It was great to catch up in person, and to see that WWTBAM could still draw huge crowds despite a nasty Pennsylvania rainstorm. Best wishes for the continuing success of WWTBAM, hopefully with sunnier days ahead!
The AMS thanks sponsors Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, and John Wiley and Sons for supporting Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.
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