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U-M’s Marshall scholar

March 14, 2019
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ANN ARBOR – When Amanda Burcroff was a freshman, she stumbled across an invitation to a University dinner honoring Marshall and Rhodes Scholarship nominees. There, she met a fellow Michigan mathematics student who was in the running for the scholarship.

“It made me realize that this was something I should keep on my radar,” said Burcroff, who’s also a computer science minor.

Now an LSA senior, she’s one of two recipients of this year’s Marshall Scholarship. The scholarship funded by the British government, allows upvto 40 American students to study at British universities every year.

“I’ll be at Cambridge during the first year, so I’m very excited,” said Burcroff who will also pursue another master’s degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Oxford during her second year.

Burcroff and Noah McNeal, a senior in LSA physics, are U-M’s 8th and 9th Marshall fellows, first students since 2013. Burcroff notes that she has something in common with five of the University’s six Marshall scholarship recipients since 1997—ties to the math department.

“The Marshall Scholarship is for any field. With so many Michigan math students in the list, It’s clear that something positive is happening in our math department,” she said.

Burcroff’s interest in pursuing a master’s degree abroad arose when she studied in Hungary, her first summer at U-M. There, she was exposed to combinatorics, a subfield of math which soon became her specialty. She describes combinatorics as the mathematics of counting.

“When I went to Hungary, I wasn’t even planning on taking any combinatorics courses, because I didn’t realize they were such a big hub for this specific subfield of math. I sat in on some combinatorics classes on a whim, and was fascinated.”

This mathematician decided to immerse herself in combinatorics research, returning to Budapest during her junior year to take specialty courses in the subfield.

“These courses aren’t offered in many other places,” Burcroff explained. “Half of the combinatorialists in the Cambridge math department are Hungarian.”

“I can’t wait to meet all these people whose names I’ve read in papers and whose results I have seen cited in my classes.”

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