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Week of December 5, 2011

Math student wins Marshall Scholarship 
to study in Britain

Math, says senior Alex Carney, is not about numbers or shapes.

“It’s the study of the fundamental relationships between ideas,” he explains. “It’s not simple coincidence that nearly all of even the most theoretical mathematical developments turn out to be useful in a huge variety of applications.”

The Midland native who first came to appreciate math through his violin, will graduate with honors in May. He already has several publications in the field of number theory. And now he is one of just 36 students in the United States to receive a prestigious 2012 Marshall Scholarship, which will enable him to study for two years in the United Kingdom.

“I’m very excited,” Carney says. “The scholarship is a chance not only to earn a degree, but to study in a community of some of the most brilliant and interesting students in the world.”

Carney will spend one year studying the history of science, medicine and technology at the University of Oxford, and another year in math at the University of Cambridge. He looks forward to going abroad, to seeing new places and hearing new ideas in another educational tradition.

Carney plays violin in the highly selective Michigan University Philharmonia Orchestra and leads the Michigan Pops String Orchestra as director and concertmaster. He also is a competitive runner who placed seventh overall in the 2010 Detroit Marathon.

His long-term career goals include teaching and researching math education. He wants to work at putting some of the profound and fundamentally human elements back into this age-old discipline.

“A connection is needed so that the excitement I’ve experienced at research conferences can replace the disinterest I’ve seen in students,” Carney wrote in the personal statement that landed him this scholarship. “In the current state, it is as if students are learning years of harmonic theory without ever realizing that Beethoven used it to create a symphony.”

For a full list of the 2012 Marshall Scholarship recipients, go to



Jonathan Larson, student organizations supervisor, on volunteering: “I may not be able to give money but I can give sweat equity or my time.”


Stile Antico, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

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