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Youngest Student in SMCS History Wins Prestigious Math Award

Grade 10 student Shiyu Zhang is taking his passion and aptitude for math south for the summer.

Zhang added his name to the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) history books this spring as the youngest recipient of the Father Maurice F. Whelan, CSB Award!

As the youngest award winner, the Grade 10 student will attend a three-week residential programme at Columbia University from June 26 to July 14.

Established in 2015 by Lou Odette ’69 and M. Ellen Gaffney, the award serves to recognize and honour Fr. Whelan’s many years teaching mathematics at SMCS by providing an opportunity for a mathematics student to attend a summer residential math programme typically in between his Grade 11 and Grade 12 school years. The goal is to encourage strongly motivated students to explore in-depth the creative world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counsellors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists.

“I first want to thank the wonderful people that helped make this award possible. I feel that it is a great and generous opportunity to receive this award,” says Zhang. “Mainly because it is a recognition of my dedication to the math and science fields. In addition, since I am the youngest recipient of the award, I encourage other young students, like me, to pursue the field of mathematics as well.”

Shiyu Zhang wins Father Maurice F. Whelan, CSB Award, a prestigious math award at SMCS
Shiyu Zhang, Grade 10, is the youngest student to receive the Father Maurice F. Whelan, CSB Award.

The award supports the recipient with registration fees, tuition fees, board, and travel costs associated with their chosen programme.

“Maths to me evokes the joy of play – fun and voluntary, and with a big role for the imagination. And math is not isolated problem solving, but shared social exploration,” says Lou Odette. “The Fr. Whelan Award gives a student the freedom to be inspired by mathematical explorations of their own design, a chance to play with a community of their peers. Math camp!”

Located in New York City, Columbia University is well-known for its academics and is a centre of research. It is one of the oldest post-secondary institutions in the United States that provides a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.

“I hope to gain much knowledge and skills, especially in the field of engineering and build many connections with my brilliant peers. In a university-like environment, I feel like it would help me strive my very hardest and know what to expect in the years to come,” says Zhang. “I also chose Columbia because of all the potential events and excursions to places like museums and galleries. Even better, I would also get a chance to experience Broadway musicals firsthand.”

Zhang will be participating in a programme called ‘Big Data, Machine Learning, and their Real World Applications’. The introductory course enables participants to navigate the new reality of the ‘data economy’. Students will focus on the strategic use of data and innovative technologies to derive actionable business insights and will develop a strong foundation in data-driven thinking for solving real-world problems. They are introduced to a variety of popular technologies for data analytics and gain a familiarity with programming technology.

“The main reason I chose the Columbia programme is that it is known for academic excellence. For my course, I chose Big Data and Machine Learning as I am very interested in AI and machine learning along with all the possibilities that it could unlock and problems that it could potentially solve in the future.”

With an undeniable passion for mathematics, Zhang continues to actively seek out opportunities beyond the curriculum to explore and further his knowledge and impact others.

“I am planning to start a new math contest at the school which would be modeled like a game show. That way, many other students regardless of grade level, will have the opportunity to show off and start to build their passion for the subject.”

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