Md. student is named top Westinghouse scholar High school senior gets $40,000 award for college

March 12, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- A Montgomery County high school student has been chosen, from among 1,869 entrants nationwide, to receive the highest honor from the annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search and $40,000 in scholarship money for college.

For his work on "surreal numbers" -- a system that includes infinitely small and infinitely large numbers -- the student, Jacob Lurie, 18, was singled out as the top Westinghouse student scholar in the country. His award was announced last night at a black-tie ceremony at the Stouffer Mayflower Hotel here, where nine other students also were honored.

"I didn't think that I would win," said Mr. Lurie, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School who took the award in stride.

He said he entered the contest because "it just seemed like something to do." He said the scholarship will help pay his tuition at Harvard University, where he has been accepted.

In his research paper, Mr. Lurie explored the process by which certain surreal numbers can be computed.

"It's not so easy, what he's done," said Carol Wood, a professor of mathematics at Wesleyan University in Connecticut who was one of the 12 judges. "What I found unusual is his maturity as a mathematician -- the amount that he knows, understands. He has a good sense of what's important."

Mr. Lurie, a Bethesda resident who enjoys composing music, TTC playing the flute and violin and juggling, plans to study mathematics at Harvard. He was one of two Maryland students among the 40 finalists.

The other Maryland student, Mani S. Mahjouri, a 17-year-old senior at Atholton High School in Columbia, was recognized for a project in which he used data gathered by spacecraft to create a computer model that explained how charged particles might escape Jupiter's magnetic field. Mr. Mahjouri, a native of Iran who last year taught himself three semesters' worth of college-level calculus, won a $1,000 cash award.

The second-place winner, who received a $30,000 scholarship, was Ting Luo, 18, of Stuyvesant High School in New York City, whose biology project dealt with human gene expression.

Matthew D. Graham, also 18, of Ocean Park, Fla., won the third-place award, a $20,000 scholarship, for developing a sensor to detect ice accumulation on aircraft surfaces.

Westinghouse also awarded three $15,000 scholarships, four $10,000 scholarships and 29 other $1,000 cash awards last night.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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