Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LSA senior wins Churchill Scholarship to study at Cambridge

Nicholas Triantafillou is U-M's most recent recipient of the prestigious Churchill Scholarship, which funds a year of graduate study in mathematics, biological and physical sciences, and engineering at the University of Cambridge.

 
  Nicholas Triantafillou

Triantafillou is a senior from Saginaw, double majoring in honors mathematics and honors computer science. At Cambridge he will complete a Master of Advanced Studies (Part III) in theoretical mathematics, a program that provides in-depth exposure to a wide variety of fields in both pure and applied mathematics.

"It is an honor that the University of Michigan is again represented among the Churchill Scholars," said Lester P. Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs. "We are proud that Triantafillou will follow U-M's 2012 Marshall Scholar, Alex Carney, and our 2011 Churchill Scholar, David Montague, in studying math at Cambridge. His presence will bolster Michigan's reputation as a launching pad for remarkable mathematicians."

The Churchill Scholarship is one of the most prestigious and academically competitive opportunities of its kind. Only 14 scholarships are awarded each year nationwide among applicants from 103 American colleges and universities. Triantafillou is U-M's 12th Churchill Scholar since the program began in 1959 at the recommendation of Sir Winston Churchill, who wished there always be graduate students from the United States attending the college that bears his name. Churchill College is one of 31 colleges at Cambridge.

U-M was one of only three public universities to have a scholarship winner in this year's especially competitive pool. The average GPA among this year's Churchill Scholars was 3.981 with majors in astronomy, chemistry (2), computational biology (2), earth sciences, engineering (2), theoretical mathematics (4), neuroscience, and veterinary medicine.

Triantafillou has been highly decorated during his time at U-M. He received the Evelyn O. Bychinsky Award and M.S. Keeler Merit Scholarship in Mathematics, the Otto Graf Scholarship in the Honors Program, a Goldwater Scholarship in 2011 and an Astronaut Scholarship in 2012. He was elected to Phi Kappa Phi as a sophomore and to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior.

He participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program on number theory and random matrix theory at Williams College, another REU program on combinatorics and additive number theory at East Tennessee State University, and the Director's Summer Program at the National Security Agency. Triantafillou is co-author on several forthcoming publications on random matrix theory and number theory.

Math has been a lifelong love for Triantafillou. In first grade he completed the sentence "I wish my teacher would…" with "…give me more math homework." But he also is a sports enthusiast and avid fan of Michigan athletics. Triantafillou played running back, linebacker and defensive back on his high school football team. He has been active in intramural sports at U-M, playing four years of flag football as well as water polo, softball and dodgeball.

His goal is to attend a home game for every varsity sport at U-M — attending six events in the last month alone — and to visit every major league ballpark. He's been to 24 out of 30 so far. He's proud to know all the words to "The Victors" (including the introduction and the break strain), "Varsity" and other traditional U-M fight songs. "My dad is an alum and I've been a Wolverine since birth," he says.

Triantafillou already has demonstrated considerable talent as a teacher, serving as a course assistant for classes as diverse as "Data, Functions, and Graphs" (MATH 105) and "Honors Analysis I" (MATH 395). He tutors middle school and high school students in Michigan's Math Circle. In fall 2012 he taught an HONORS 135 minicourse titled "Games and Puzzles" that explored practical applications of game theory in different disciplines.

After his year at Cambridge, Triantafillou plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics in preparation for a faculty position in mathematics and computer science. One of the students in his honors mini-course wrote: "Nicholas is going to be a famous mathematician one day; and when that happens I'll be able to say I had a class with him."