A wise prize

Top mathematical students Fang, Paruchuri and Araj win awards

PHOTO BY NATHAN GARTNER|PHOTO EDITOR Gary Fang, Pythagorean Prize winner, tutors math, physics and chemistry in the Learning Assistance Center.
Gary Fang, Pythagorean Prize winner, tutors math, physics and chemistry in the Learning Assistance Center.

The 20th Annual Pythagorean Prize, which is an award that recognizes Schoolcraft’s top mathematics students every year, was announced in early April. This year’s top honor goes to Gary Fang. In addition, two other outstanding students were also recognized for their mathematical achievements. These two students were Anvitha Paruchuri and Ruby Araj
“It is such a pleasure for us, as a department, to be able to present this award,” said Professor Sandra Kerr, chair of the Pythagorean prize committee.
To qualify for consideration, students must be completing or have completed at least three mathematics courses at Schoolcraft College (one at the 200 level or above), have an overall grade point average of at least 3.25, have a grade average of at least 3.5 in mathematics courses, not have been a first place winner of this award previously and have completed and submitted an application and essay by the deadline.
“We place considerable emphasis on the paper they write. We also take into consideration the contributions they make to the Schoolcraft College community, the community outside of Schoolcraft College and the contributions they make in their classes,” Kerr said. “It is not an easy decision.”
A committee of five mathematics faculty members read through each application and essay, then meet to discuss each impressive candidate before deciding winners. This year was especially tough to make a decision with 14 candidates qualifying.
Pythagorean Prize winner Gary Fang, 23, of Canton, was awared the first prize for his outstand academic achievement in mathematics. Fang aced all his math courses in his tenure at Schoolcraft.
Only about two years ago Gary lived in Hong Kong, China, knowing no English. When he came to the States, he only knew how to say hello, and now, he tutors math, physics and chemistry in his second language in the Learning Assistance Center. He was also Vice President of the Math and Physics Club this semester.
“I came here by myself. Part of my family, they live here— my grandparents, my uncle,” Fang said.
While in China, Fang attended pharmacy school for two years.
“That was not my thing. That’s why I moved here to start [over] again,” Fang said.
Currently, the prizewinner is finishing up his last semester at Schoolcraft with hopes of attending the University of Michigan next year to complete a double major in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. After that, he would like to get at least a masters degree, if not also attaining a PhD.
“You just need the passion for your own career,” Fang said.
Second place winner, Anvitha Paruchuri, 20, of Plymouth not only immigrated from India to Michigan in 2012 to earn straight 4.0s in all of her classes at Schoolcraft, she rarely even missed points in her classes. She also managed her time efficiently in order to be Secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, where she focused on event promotion and computer work and be the Vice President for the Math and Physics Club.
“I am very determined to accomplish my goals, so I always strive very hard to reach my goals and be successful in my life,” Paruchuri said.
Currently, she is working on a bachelor degree in Computer Science Engineering at the University of Michigan and is considering a masters degree as well.
“Ultimately, I aspire to become a renowned Enterprise Data Architect. My ideal company is a progressive, high-tech company, e.g. Google or Microsoft,” Paruchuri said. “Eventually I would like to run my own computer firm.”
Third place winner Ruby Araj, 20, also aced all of her Schoolcraft courses. In addition to academic excellence, Araj is bilingual, speaking fluent Arabic, and she has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Jordan. While at Schoolcraft, she was also active in the Math and Physics Club where she loved to be able to work to solve problems in a stress-free zone.
“The satisfaction of solving a problem correctly drives me to do well,” Araj said.
Araj is currently enrolled at the University of Michigan, working on an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project project through the U of M Physics Department, conducting scientific experiments with a team.
“One of my career goals is to work in one of the national laboratories to advance science and technology. I enjoy scientific research and discovery,” Araj said.
With such high goals, Araj is sure to spend much time in school, furthering her education. She envisions grad school in her not too distant future.
Twenty years ago in 1995, Mathematics professor Larry Williams, who is now an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, founded the Pythagorean Prize award to honor the top mathematics students. Professor Sandra Kerr took over as the Chair of the Committee nine years ago when Williams retired.
The Schoolcraft College Foundation, Student Services, the Science Division, instructors and other donors fund the award. This year, Marian Kerhl’s family made a generous donation to increase the monetary awards. Last year, the first place prize was $1,000 and the second was $500. This year, the first place prize is $3,000, second place is $1,500 and third place is $1,000. The other students who qualified will receive awards, recognition and $100 campus gift cards.
Everyone is invited to attend the award reception taking place on April 21 at 3:15 p.m. in the VisTaTech Center and to hear comments from the awardees and their professors.