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Harvard Takes Top Spot in 2008 Putnam Competition; Rochester Joins Top 10

The results of the 68th William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, which took place  Dec. 6, 2008, are in. The top five teams were Harvard University ($25,000), Princeton University ($20,000), Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($15,000), Stanford University ($10,000), and California Institute of Technology ($5,000).

Rounding out the top ten were Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and, in a surprise, the University of Rochester.

Harvard's Arnav Tripathy was among the five highest ranking individuals (Putnam Fellows) for the second time. He received a prize of $2,500. Harvard's Iurie Boreico and freshman Alex Zhai were among the next eleven highest ranking individuals, garnering $1000 each, while the university's Zachary Abel was among the next nine highest ranking performers.

The other four Putnam Fellows were Brian R. Lawrence (Caltech), Seok Hyeong Lee (Stanford), Bohua Zhan (MIT), and Yufei Zhao (MIT).

The Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize for the woman with the highest score went to Viktoriya Krakovna (Toronto).

Preliminary solutions to the problems in the 2008 competition were published in the February Mathematics Magazine. The official solutions and complete results will appear in the October American Mathematical Monthly.

A total of 3,627 students from 545 colleges in Canada and the United States participated in the recent competition, which is administered by the MAA. The premier undergraduate mathematics competition in North America stresses a healthy rivalry in mathematical studies and covers such topics as group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, number theory, and cardinal arithmetic.

Dan Geba, the coach of Rochester's young mathematicians since 2006, pushed his team to its best showing ever, which has gone from 67th place to 10th place during his tenure. "I had a strong belief that they had the potential to achieve results of this magnitude," said Geba, who is a member of the MAA. "To be in the company of Harvard, Princeton, and MIT, who are considered powerhouses in mathematics, is a great honor," he noted.

Rochester team members Chris Kauffman, Kevin Lin, and Xiaoqing Tang earned individual rankings of 145th, 157th, and 262nd, respectively. Geba obtained inspired results thanks to his popular Problem-Solving Seminar. "We hope for the best and will keep the effort going," he said. "From here, it's being one of the top five, that's the ultimate goal."

Source: MAA; Harvard University; University of Rochester, March 27, 2009; University of Connecticut; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Harvey Mudd College.

News Date: 
Monday, March 30, 2009