Prizes and Awards in Mathematics

The Eric Temple Bell Undergraduate Mathematics Research Prize

In 1963 the department of mathematics established this prize honoring the memory of Professor Eric Temple Bell and his illustrious career as a research mathematician, teacher, author, and scholar.  It is awarded to one or more juniors or seniors for outstanding original research in mathematics.

A cash prize of $500 awarded for the best original mathematics paper written by a Caltech junior or senior.

Contestants for the Bell Prize must be nominated by a faculty member familiar with their work. Students who wish to be considered for this prize should contact a member of the Mathematics faculty prior to the end of the second term to discuss the nature of the research. If the entry is sufficiently worthy, the faculty member will nominate the contestant and act as sponsor. Each student is entitled to only one entry. All contestants nominated must submit their papers in final form to their faculty sponsors by the end of the fourth week of the third term (April 26). A faculty committee will then judge the papers and announce its decision before the end of the third term. The committee may award duplicate prizes in case of more than one outstanding entry. The name of the winner (or winners) will appear in the commencement program.

The Bell prize recognizes original research by our undergraduates. Accordingly, submissions should be solely authored by the submitter. While we encourage mentoring by faculty, the submission should represent the original work of the student to the extent that we will not consider submissions based on research that will be or has been jointly submitted for publication by the student and a faculty member.

The Morgan Ward Prize

The Morgan Ward Prize was established by the Department of Mathematics in 1963 to honor the memory of Professor Morgan Ward in recognition of his long service to mathematics and to the Institute.  The competition is open only to freshmen and sophomores.  An entry consists of a mathematical problem together with a solution or a significant contribution toward a solution.

Any Caltech freshman or sophomore may enter this contest. An entry may be individual (submitted by one student) or joint (submitted by a group of two or more students). Each student is entitled to at most three entries, of which two may be individual.

An entry is to consist of a mathematical problem, together with a solution or significant contribution toward a solution. The problem may have any source, but this source should be stated in the entry. The entries may be judged on the basis of the nature of the problem, originality and elegance of the solution. Any outside references used should be indicated.

Entries from each contestant or group must be placed in an envelope and delivered to the Mathematics Office, 253 Sloan, during the fourth week of the third term. The name of the contestant, or the names of all participants in the case of a joint entry, must be written on the envelope only, not on the entry. The Judging Committee will consist of three volunteers. The judges will select a group of finalists and submit their entries to the Mathematics Department faculty who will make awards to the winners. Prizes will ordinarily be awarded for the 2 to 4 best entries, the value of each prize being $75. Prizes for individual entries will be limited to one to a contestant, and no group may receive more than one prize.

H. J. Ryser Scholarships

The H. J. Ryser Scholarships were established in 1986 in memory of H. J. Ryser, who was professor of mathematics at Caltech from 1967 to 1985. Professor Ryser contributed greatly to combinatorial mathematics and inspired many students with his carefully planned courses. It is awarded to undergraduate students for academic excellence.

Fredrick J. Zeigler Memorial Award

The Fredrick J. Zeigler Memorial Award was established in 1989 to honor Fredrick J. Zeigler, a member of the class of 1976 and an applied mathematics major. The award recognizes excellence in scholarship as demonstrated in class activities or in the preparation of an original paper or essay in any subject area.

William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is an annual mathematics competition for undergraduate college students enrolled at institutions of higher learning in the United States and Canada (regardless of the students' nationalities). It is widely considered to be the most prestigious university-level mathematics examination in the world, and its difficulty is such that the median score is often zero or one (out of 120) despite being attempted by students specializing in mathematics.

The competition was founded in 1927 by Elizabeth Lowell Putnam in memory of her husband William Lowell Putnam, who was an advocate of intercollegiate intellectual competition. The exam has been offered annually since 1938 and is administered by the Mathematical Association of America.

Scott Russell Johnson Achievement Awards

The Scott Russell Johnson Achievement awards were established in 2001 by Steve and Rosemary Johnson in memory of Steve's brother Scott who graduated in Math from Caltech in 1983. The Scott Russell Johnson Prize for Excellence in Graduate Study is given to continuing graduate students for extraordinary progress in research, excellence in teaching, or excellent performance as a first-year graduate student.

The Scott Russell Johnson Graduate Dissertation Prize in Mathematics is awarded for the best graduate dissertation in mathematics.

The Scott Russell Johnson Undergraduate Mathematics Prize is given to the best graduating mathematics major. Special consideration is given to independent research done as a senior thesis or SURF project.

The W.P. Carey Graduate Dissertation Prize

The W. P. Carey Prize is awarded to outstanding doctoral dissertations in applied or pure mathematics. The award is made possible by a gift from William Polk Carey and from W.P. Carey & Co., Inc.

The Robert P. Balles Caltech Mathematics Scholars Award

The Robert P. Balles Caltech Mathematics Scholars Award was established in 2005 by Robert P. Balles, a friend of the California Institute of Technology and a supporter of the study of mathematics. The Balles Award is given to the mathematics major entering his/her senior year who has demonstrated the most outstanding performance in mathematics courses completed in the student's first three years at Caltech.

The Apostol Award for Excellence in Teaching in Mathematics

For over fifty years, Tom Apostol has represented great math teaching at Caltech. In 2010 the mathematics option at Caltech set up the Apostol Teaching Awards to recognize excellence in teaching by our graduate and undergraduate teachers.