Math student wins Goldwater Scholarship

Junior minoring in computer science is CMU’s third to win prestigious award

​When Central Michigan University junior mathematics major Austin Konkel gets into a discussion about a math calculation, he might say "prove it."

And then go ahead and do it himself.

Mug-KonkelHis skill at proving mathematical calculations has earned the Warren, Michigan, native a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship that covers academic expenses up to $7,500 a year.

Konkel's major concentration in the College of Science and Engineering is pure mathematics, which is the study of the basic concepts and structures that underlie mathematical equations.

It's an avenue that he considers more of an art than a science.

"In applied math, you deal with data. In pure math you don't have data," he said.

Konkel is CMU's third Goldwater winner, following those in 2016 and 2017.

"My goal is that we have a Goldwater recipient every year," said Maureen Harke, associate director of the Honors Program and National Scholarship Program at CMU. "I know that CMU has this potential."

A focus on proof

Pure math is focused on proofs — the process of showing that a mathematical equation or theorem is true everywhere and for eternity.

"I generally don't work with numbers at all," he said. "It's just abstract ideas and abstract concepts and using them to prove things with logical statements."

That's why he has a minor in computer science, he said.

"In computer science, you have to use logical statements to get your output. In pure math you are proving things using logic. There are no maybes.

"There is not a great deal of application to the real world that you have with pure mathematics, but that is fine. I like it."

Faculty want you to succeed

The 4.0 GPA student plans to take his skills into graduate school and eventually become a university professor, like those he has had at Central.

"They really care about the students and really want you to succeed," he said.

Konkel credits the instruction and mentoring he received at Central for helping him become one of the only 396 students this year to receive the award.

There were 1,343 applicants from 461 institutions in the U.S. seeking the award from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The U.S. Congress created the foundation on 1986 to support outstanding U.S. undergraduate students with excellent academic records and demonstrated interest in, and potential for, research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Learn more about CMU's National Scholarship Program and the scholarships and fellowships it supports.

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