UB Sophomore Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

By Adrian Finch

Release Date: April 1, 2011

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UB sophomore Max Bileschi, a mathematics and computer science major, has won the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education award.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo sophomore Maxwell "Max" Bileschi has won the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education award, given nationally to outstanding undergraduate sophomores and juniors studying mathematics, science or engineering.

Over 1,000 students were nominated for the award, and Bileschi is one of 275 students to win the $7,500 annual scholarship, which will fund the remaining two years of his undergraduate study at UB.

A resident of Webster N.Y., Bileschi is a UB Honors College scholar who maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average as he works toward dual bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics, as well as a bachelor's degree in computer science. He hopes to obtain a PhD in mathematics or computer science, and then move on to a career as a professor at a research university.

"Max's academic record is impeccable," said David J. Hemmer, UB associate professor of mathematics and director of undergraduate studies. "But what truly distinguishes him, at such a young age, is that he already has a strong drive for pursuing research, for attacking unsolved problems in mathematics and for applying mathematics to problems in other areas.

"In my 10 years teaching at three different major state universities, Max is the best undergraduate student with whom I have had the pleasure of working."

Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 77 Rhodes Scholarships, 108 Marshall Awards, 98 Churchill Scholarships and other distinguished fellowships. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award in the field of sciences.

Bileschi's motivation to work hard in the classroom comes from his desire to solve problems others think are unsolvable.

"For me, challenges are a motivating force," Bileschi says. "I am in a place where learning is paramount and personal betterment takes precedence over grades -- I love it."

Though only 20 years old, Bileschi already has embarked on a budding career as a researcher and is earning international recognition for his research, in addition to academic accolades.

As a senior at Webster Thomas High School, Bileschi designed a computer game to teach AP biology students about evolutionary structures in plants. Soon after, he sold his concept to an educational software firm in Australia.

As a freshman at UB, he was accepted into a year-long research program with the National Science Foundation's Computational Science Training for Undergraduates in Mathematical Sciences (CSUMS) program, URGE to Compute.

Through URGE, Bileschi not only reaffirmed his passion to become a mathematician, but he also worked with Thomas Cusick, PhD, a mathematics professor at UB, and Dan Padgett, a UB senior, to produce two research papers on complex mathematical concepts that have been submitted for review by two prominent research journals.

"Max is a truly exceptional mathematics student," Cusick says. "He is one of the best three freshman students that I have encountered in my 40 years of teaching."

Bileschi was chosen last semester to co-present his findings at the 2010 Young Mathematician's Conference at Ohio State University. Out of 50 other participants, he and his team were awarded honorable mention for their research.

Currently, Bileschi is working with Daniel Weinreich, PhD, professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, to apply representation theory to predicting evolutionary adaptations.

"I think that research is the best way to learn, and it's so great that UB gives that opportunity to students," Bileschi says. "When doing research, I learn, think and stretch my understanding and views of the world."

Bileschi acknowledges the role that the UB Honors College played in helping him prepare and apply for the scholarship.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.