North Central College math major earns Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention

Mar 28, 2014

Rebecca Heinen ’15 of Sparta, Ill., a mathematics major, has been awarded a prestigious national honor as a 2014 Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention. The Goldwater Scholar program is highly competitive and represents the highest national award given to undergraduates who plan to pursue careers in science and math research. 

“The fact that another North Central student has received Goldwater recognition further confirms that our students can be successful on a national stage and compete against undergrads from large research universities, Ivy League schools and other top colleges,” says Perry Hamalis, Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion, associate professor of religious studies and director of College Honors Programs.

Heinen has been deeply involved in mathematics research after attending a six-week National Science Foundation (NSF) math program at St. Mary’s College in Maryland during summer 2013. The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program is designed for students who want the experience of mathematics research and collaboration and are considering graduate school in the future.  The summer seminar inspired her research, titled “Self-Stabilization Under Minimal Liar’s Domination For Path Graphs,” for presentation at two national conferences and the College’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research.

For Heinen, the NSF program was a perfect fit for her growing interest in math research. “I had never participated in math research previous to last summer because I came to North Central as a biology major and wanted to attend medical school. I found that math research is really interesting and I enjoy it. You reach a point when you know what to do with your life and you’re at peace with yourself.” 

A College Scholar, she wants to continue research in the area of graph theory, she adds, and will most likely attend graduate school in a mathematics program.  

For summer 2014, Heinen has been accepted into a second REU program at San Diego State University. This highly selective eight-week program is titled Arithmetic of Numerical Semigroups and includes a stipend of $5,000.

“This is one of the country's most prestigious mathematics REUs, a program that accepts only 2-3 percent of its applicants,” says Neil Nicholson, assistant professor of mathematics. “Rebecca is taking full advantage of what the mathematics department at North Central has to offer, using it as a springboard for expanding her horizons and preparing her for a bright future. I am excited to see what she will bring to the study of mathematics in the years to come.”

Heinen says she has been encouraged and inspired by Nicholson and Matthew Pons, associate professor of mathematics, who have supported her pursuit of the NSF opportunities and Goldwater award.

“Winning this award demonstrates that students from North Central College can conduct scientific research and be as competitive as other students from research universities, so I’m  happy I can be an example for other students,” Heinen adds.