By Erik Bacharach
Chaoren Lin's greatest dream is to solve one of the world's most important math problems. After becoming a winner of the national Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Awards, he moved one step closer to realizing that goal.
Lin, a senior majoring in math and computer science, was one of only eight winners of the American Mathematical Society award in the U.S. and the first SUNY winner since 2007.
"It always feels good to be considered for something, and then win it," Lin says. "I had never won anything like this before."
The criteria for the award is based on both academic merit and financial need. Lin was selected as a finalist based on his grade point average, and was then interviewed about his goals and how he would spend the $3,000 prize.
With the burdens of student loans always resting heavily on his shoulders, the Brooklyn native could think of no better use for the money.
"All the money is going toward my student loans," Lin says. "It really helps, especially because I want to go to grad school. Right now, getting into grad school is my goal."
Lin's achievement is especially impressive considering he was uncertain which of his interests he would pursue upon first arriving in the Southern Tier.
While Lin came to Binghamton University without a clear idea of what he would study, he attended a seminar during his freshman year in which the benefits of different majors were discussed.
"I had always liked computers, so CS caught my attention right away," Lin says.
From there, Lin joined CoRE (Computers, Robotics and Engineers), and his fascination with computer science took off. He even landed an executive board position at the common interest group.
After remaining monogamous to computer science for a year, Lin began to flirt with math after heeding some respected advice.
"The computer science director suggested that I do math in addition to computer science because he knew I was pretty good at math," Lin said. "And it turned out to be a good decision."
After two years of fully committing himself to his new area of study, Lin says he may now be more interested in a career more closely related to math than computer science.
"Right now, I actually enjoy math more than computer science," Lin says. "The only thing is it's pretty hard to get a job doing math so I'm definitely still staying with both."
Lin chose Binghamton primarily for its financial value, but is reaping the school's academic benefits as much as anything else. And while student loans will continue to provide another challenge for Lin, he's now equipped with the knowledge, confidence and motivation that will successfully propel him into grad school.
With the prize money aiding his academic pursuit, Lin's dream of deciphering one of the most impactful math puzzles doesn't seem all that far away.
"I feel like I could make a difference by doing that," Lin says. "And now I'm closer."
Last Updated: 12/18/13