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Mehtaab Sawhney named 2020 Churchill Scholar

MIT senior will pursue graduate studies in mathematics at Churchill College, Cambridge University.
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Mehtaab Sawnhey is a 2020 Churchill Scholar.
Mehtaab Sawnhey is a 2020 Churchill Scholar.
Photo courtesy of Mehtaab Sawnhey

Mehtaab Sawhney, a senior from Commack, New York, has been named a 2020 Churchill Scholar and will pursue a year of graduate studies at Cambridge University in the U.K. Sawhney will graduate this February with a BS in mathematics and a minor in computer science. At Cambridge, he will undertake Part III of the Mathematics Tripos master’s degree before returning to the U.S. to enroll in a mathematics PhD program. He aspires to become a professor of mathematics specializing in combinatorics.

Sawhney completed his first year of undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and then transferred to MIT. At MIT, he has contributed to more than a dozen published or submitted academic papers, a rare feat for an undergraduate student. The majority of his research has been done in combinatorics under the tutelage of Professor Yufei Zhao in the MIT Department of Mathematics.

“Mehtaab is an incredibly talented and energetic mathematician,” states Zhao. “I constantly learn so much from talking to him. Working with Mehtaab on research has been one of the most fun and rewarding activities that I have done since joining MIT as a faculty member.”

Sawhney began his impressive rise in mathematics in high school, where he was a participant in the United States Mathematical Olympiad. He found the activity of solving problems fascinating. In high school, he got his first real taste of research through the MIT Primes-USA Program, which pairs high school students with graduate students to solve problems collectively but remotely. Here he first encountered combinatorics, an area of mathematics that focuses on counting.

Sawhney continued to work on math problems in the Math Olympiad, International Science and Engineering Fair, and then eventually the Putnam Mathematical Competition (where he was an honorable mention in both 2016 and 2018). He volunteers his time with the U.S. Mathematical Olympiad and the U.S. Team Selection Test as a grader and reviewer.

The Churchill Scholarship provides funding to American students for a year of master’s study at Cambridge University, based at Churchill College. The program was set up at the request of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to honor his vision of U.S.-U.K. scientific exchange. The Churchill Foundation annually awards scholarships to 15 American students for study in science, mathematics, or engineering. MIT nominates two candidates each year. MIT students interested in learning more about applying for the Churchill Scholarship, and other distinguished fellowships, should contact Kimberly Benard, assistant dean of Career Advising and Professional Development.

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