2023 math student prizes

May 23, 2023

Written by Miki and the prize recipients.

Allow me to share the Math department’s congratulations to all of our graduating seniors - we are so proud of you! 

This year’s Math graduation party took place in the afternoon on Monday, May 22. We are thrilled that many of our seniors and their families were able to join us for the celebration. It was wonderful to see all of you. 

During the event, we announced this year’s mathematics prizes , given out by Prof. Andrew Neitzke, and by Hamilton Wan (last year’s recipient of the Stanley prize). Per our tradition, each prize recipient shared an anecdote from their time at Yale. 

For this article, they wrote a few lines about their plans, and shared advice for new math majors:

The DeForest prizes for proficiency in pure and applied mathematics are awarded to Ethan Pesikoff ‘23 and Wenrui Kong ‘23.

Ethan will be pursuing a MASt in Pure Mathematics at Cambridge next year before starting his PhD in math at the University of Chicago in fall 2024.  During this summer, he looks forward to both his gig at Jane street and travelling abroad, which will likely include backpacking in the Austrian alps.  Hopefully, he’ll find time in grad school to continue playing the piano and studying languages he likes.

Advice to new math majors

Work with people (and if you can, befriend them)!  There’s a time for solitary study, but doing stuff with people goes a long way for several reasons.  Maybe even if you don’t understand something, your friends might, and they can clarify it for you in some more helpful way.  And when you’re the one who gets it, explaining a concept can really help it stick and solidify in your mind.  Math is pretty hard, so having people to collaborate with and complain to and feel stuck with goes a long way.

Wenrui will be pursuing a PhD in mathematics at NYU Courant next year, with primary interest in differential geometry. This summer, he will spend some time with family and friends and travel around China. He will also try to cook some new dishes and play the piano for fun.

Advice to new math majors

It is always a good idea to look back and observe the bigger picture of how a mathematical idea or branch has developed. This habit will strengthen your knowledge base and inspire you to ask interesting new questions. Moreover, explore broadly to see the connections among various topics and find your interest!

The Anthony D. Stanley memorial prize, given out to a junior for excellence in pure and applied mathematics, is awarded to Erica Weiler ‘24.

Erica will be doing an internship at Goldman Sachs in New York City this summer, and she is looking forward to spending time with her friends and family, as well as hopefully finding time to draw.

Advice to new math majors

Don’t be put off from doing the major just because you feel like you have less experience than your peers. Everyone comes from a different background and takes these classes at different points in their degree. I know from experience that sometimes it can feel like you are the only one struggling with a topic, or you may feel so lost that you don’t even know how to formulate the right question. At times like these (and, honestly, at all times), my main advice is to go to office hours, where you can meet other people in your class and, as cliché as it sounds, unite through your struggles. Chances are you will find someone who can guide you through that topic you had issues with, and whom you can then help with a different topic that you understood and they didn’t. 

The George Beckwith prize for proficiency in astronomy or mathematics is awarded to Jack Miller ‘24.

Jack is excited by number theory, and is interested in pursuing this subject as well as adjacent fields of math in graduate school. This summer, he looks forward to making new friends in math, going on long hikes, and learning how to touch his toes.

Advice to new math majors

You don’t have to be inspired all the time by what you are learning, but I recommend circling back to the bigger picture as to why you are learning mathematics. The bigger picture is allowed to change, but I find it may help to create one and keep it in your mind for an extended period of time. Also, if you are taking a course in an upcoming semester, skim through wikipedia or a textbook on the subject and “play with” (read and try to come up with examples of) the basic definitions and philosophical issues that are presented. Most of all, have fun!

The John Alan Lewis Summer Research Fellowship is awarded to a winning proposal by an undergraduate student majoring in mathematics who wishes to pursue their studies over the summer. This year’s fellowship is awarded to Rudy Cordero.

Research proposal summary

This research proposal delves into Fourier Analysis, explicitly exploring the Fourier Series and Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) and their impactful applications in neural networks and deep learning. The research aims to elucidate the profound mathematical implications of FFT in enhancing the computational efficiency and optimization of neural network architectures. The study is two-pronged:
1) It will dissect the mathematical mechanics behind the role of FFT in improving the computational performance of neural networks, and
2) It will expand on the fundamental mathematical principles intrinsic to Fourier analysis and their symbiotic relationship with neural network optimization.
The project will encompass a comprehensive review of scholarly literature, practical implementation of a deep learning model incorporating FFT, and systematic documentation of the research findings. This fascinating research matches pure mathematical theory with practical applications in computer science and artificial intelligence. It underscores the relevance and adaptability of mathematical concepts in today’s cutting-edge technology fields.

Advice to new math majors

  • Schedule Time for Deliberate Practice: Mathematics is a discipline that benefits from active engagement. Regularly work through problem sets to cement your understanding and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Embrace Challenges: Some concepts will be tough, but it’s essential to persevere and not be deterred by initial difficulty. Remember, struggling with a problem often leads to a deeper understanding.
  • Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to ask for help during office hours from professors, tutors, or classmates. Collaborating and discussing problems can often lead to breakthroughs in understanding.
  • Engage in Mathematical Communities and Have Fun: Join math clubs or societies, participate in math competitions, and attend academic seminars. They’re great ways to learn, network, and develop a broader perspective of the field. Whenever possible, have fun with what you are working on.