Carnegie Mellon University has placed fifth in the Mathematical Association of America's 75th William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier mathematics contest for undergraduate students. Additionally, Carnegie Mellon had 55 students who scored among the top 507, the second most of any university.
Computer science was well-represented among the top scorers, with senior mathematical sciences and computer science major Albert Gu among the top 16 overall.
This marks the fourth consecutive year that Carnegie Mellon has placed among the top five teams.
"Our showing at this year’s Putnam Competition definitively demonstrates that Carnegie Mellon is one of the top gathering places for students with interests in mathematics and related subjects," said Po-Shen Loh, assistant professor of mathematical sciences and the team's coach. "Undergraduates who come here find a community rich with fellow math enthusiasts, which makes for an engaging and stimulating learning environment."
On Dec. 6, 2014, 4,320 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 this week.
The fifth-place ranking reflects the scores of the three students selected to be on the Carnegie Mellon team: junior science and humanities scholar Linus Hamilton and sophomore mathematical sciences majors Thomas Swayze and Samuel Zbarsky.
Students not on the official university team are able to participate and compete for individual rankings. In total, 205 Carnegie Mellon students participated in this year's competition. Joining Gu among the top 16 were first-year mathematical sciences major Joshua Brakensiek and sophomore mathematical sciences major Ray Li; senior mathematical sciences major Michael Druggan and Swayze ranked in the top 27 overall.
Four other Carnegie Mellon students placed in the top 89: junior computer science and mathematical sciences major Jason Li, first-year engineering student Alyazeed Basyoni, and two mathematical sciences majors, senior Tomer Reiter and sophomore Brian Riedel.
Computer science majors among the top 190 were Terence An, Philip Garrison, Brandon Hoane, Li Chen Koh, Archit Kulkarni, Ananya Kumar, Zhao Pan and Naomi Rubin. A full listing of Carnegie Mellon students who placed in the top 507 can be found at http://www.math.cmu.edu/~ploh/2014-putnam-top500.pdf.
The students on the team and those who placed in the top 21 are all part of Carnegie Mellon’s Knaster-McWilliams Scholars program, which has been funded through the generosity of a physics alumnus and a mathematics and electrical engineering alumnus. It 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.
"We are tremendously proud of all the Putnam participants, including their coach Dr. Loh, for their skill, spirit and determination,” said John Mackey, associate head of the Mathematical Sciences Department. “For us, this is more exciting than the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s our December and March Madness!”
The Carnegie Mellon team placed second in 2013, 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 $5,000 for the fifth-place finish, and each team member will receive $200..