Senior wins national math prize for his work in combinatorics

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Reid Barton, a senior in mathematics at MIT, has been awarded the 2004 Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student.

This prize, presented annually by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, will be presented Jan. 6 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta, Ga.

Barton is being honored for his paper "Packing Densities of Patterns." The prize citation states: "After resolving the basic conceptual issues elegantly, Barton delves into the study of packing densities for specific families of layered patterns. He proves several important results, some generalizing earlier results by [other mathematicians], some opening up new vistas.

"Barton also outlines a possible program to tackle open questions and formulates new conjectures. This is all in all a remarkable debut paper in the area of pattern research in combinatorics, an area of considerable current interest. Commentators consider Barton's paper the best paper so far on packing densities, and praise it for its clarity, new techniques, and new results."

Barton has won other competitions in math as well as computer programming. When still a freshman, he led an MIT team to a second-place finish in the prestigious William Lowell Putnam intercollegiate mathematics competition, before helping the team clinch first place last year for the first time since 1979. He was on the MIT teams that won the ACM's (American Computing Machinery) regional computer programming competitions in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 team placed second in the world at the ACM's International Collegiate Programming Contest that year. Barton also placed third in Google's 2004 Code Jam, the company's annual computer programming competition.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2005 (download PDF).

Topics: Mathematics, Awards, honors and fellowships, Students


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