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Students Place in Putnam Contest


Justin Ging--The Tech
Putnam math exam winners Thomas A. Weston '96, Ruth A. Britto-Pacumio '96, Henry L. Cohn '95, Sergey M. Ioffe '97, and Frederico Ardilla '98.

By Raymond W. Hwang
Staff Reporter

The team consisting of Henry L. Cohn '95, Adam W. Meyerson '97, and Thomas Weston '96 placed third in this year's annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition administered last December.

In addition, Ruth Britto-Pacumio '96 became the first MIT student to win the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize, awarded to the highest scoring female each year. Britto-Pacumio was given $500 for her performance.

First and second place teams represented Cornell University and Harvard University respectively. Last year, MIT placed fourth and in 1993, ninth. "It's been a long time since we've placed this high and I am relatively pleased with our performance," Weston said. The results were announced late last month.

A total of 2,314 students from 409 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada participated in the competition. Each school selects three students ahead of time to comprise the team score.

However, students who are not selected for the school team may still participate in the competition as independent contestants.

The test consisted of six free-answer problems and was conducted in two three-hour sections, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Problems require only a background of elementary math, linear algebra, discrete math and number theory, Cohn said.

Cohn was a involved in a nine-way tie for fourth place and was awarded a cash prize of $100. Weston received an honorable mention award. Four non-team members were also recognized. Alexandru D. Ionescu '95 placed third in the nation in a six-way tie and received an award of $250. Receiving honorable mentions were Federico Ardila '98, Britto-Pacumio, and Sergey M. Ioffe '97.

"We were not expecting to place this high, but then it came as no surprise either," Cohn said.

"The grading seemed to be particularly harsh this year. Some people were expecting to score higher, but this turned out to work to our advantage," Weston said.

Britto-Pacumio said the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam award was "not as meaningful to me as the honorable mention because of the very low numbers of women who take the test." Last year the prize was not awarded due to low participation.