A&S Math Student Receives Prestigious National Scholarship

By Madison Dyment

A national scholarship can go a long way, even when the recipient is a senior. Just ask UK senior, Claire Barrera, the latest recipient of the Trjitzinsky Scholarship, one of the American Mathematical Society’s (AMS) coveted awards.

Rounding out her final year as a math major and economics minor, Barrera pins her scholarly path on her upbringing.

“Math, for me, is actually a family thing,” she said. “My mom is an accountant and my grandpa is an engineer, so I think it just ran in my family. I picked up on math very easily from a young age.”

This natural knack for her field went a long way in helping her achieve this scholarship. Barrera’s skill and hard work carried her through to recognition, first from UK faculty, and then from the American Mathematical Society.

The American Mathematical Society provides $3,000 at an AMS-member educational institution to a student that may be in danger of not completing their mathematics degree program for financial reasons. The AMS circulates this scholarship to different schools each year, and the school’s advisors nominate, then select one of their students to be the recipient. The students nominated are within the mathematics major program.

“I was nominated by my UK advisor for the scholarship. She said it was because I had done well over the past three years, so it served as a recognition from the college for that,” said Barrera.

“When we chose Claire as a recipient, we tried to follow as much as we could the spirit of the bequest, but we tried to also use other criteria,” said Alberto Corso, associate professor of mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences and Director of Undergraduate Studies. “We chose Claire largely because she was one of our students with the largest unmet financial need, but she is also a great student with a very high GPA.”

Barrera’s academic accomplishments followed suit with her performance in the classroom, as was noted amongst many of her professors over the years.

“Claire is one of my top students in my probability course. She is very persistent and hard-working,” said Nicholas Nguyen, who worked with Barrera as one of her lecturers and when she was an undergraduate assistant in a MA 111 class. “She is also very prompt and responsible. Overall, she was a very diligent assistant, and I am glad she is helping me again this fall for a college algebra course.”

Aside from mere academic recognition, financial aid was certainly an important benefit of receiving this scholarship especially as an out-of-state student.

“I am actually from the suburbs of Chicago,” said Barrera. “I came to UK because I really liked the smaller-campus feel. Illinois schools were just too big for me, and I enjoyed the smaller classrooms.”

Whether it be credited to the smaller class sizes or the quality of teaching, Barrera lauds UK’s Math Department for building her foundation for a future career.

“UK has given me a great start to begin my career; they offer such a wide range of math classes, from math economics classes to theoretical math classes,” she said. “A lot of them do real-life applications, like banking and interest-based problems, so it’s useful things for everyday life.”

As for these future careers, Barrera is open to any opportunities within the business, finance or actuarial science fields. She has particular interest in the business sector, considering work for insurance companies. However, she has not ruled out the possibility of continuing her academic pursuits.

“Right now I’m just focusing on finishing up my bachelor’s degree,” said Barrera. “Then, I think I want to work for a couple years before I figure out what I want to go back to school for, but it’s definitely in my future plans.”

Whether it’s continuing her scholarly pursuits or entering the workforce, Barrera’s past success and teachings from UK combined with her natural talent will certainly carry her wherever her future ambitions lead.

Read more about the award and other recipients here and learn more about the Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Memorial Awards here


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