Two undergraduates recognized for academic excellence in STEM fields

Adel Rahman and Naomi Sweeting, third-years in the College, have been awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships, awarded annually based on academic merit in natural sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

The two students were nominated by the College and are among 211 scholars selected from a field of 1,280 applicants nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year.

“As future scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians, UChicago’s students have the drive and dedication to make a meaningful impact on their fields,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “We are proud that the Goldwater Foundation has recognized the work of Adel and Naomi, and we hope the award will give them the resources and encouragement to continue their academic pursuits.”

A physics and mathematics major, Rahman plans to pursue a doctorate in theoretical physics and conduct research focused on geometric and topological aspects of gravitational, high-energy and condensed matter physics. After pursuing his doctoral studies, he would like to teach at the university level.

“As a theorist, my work is somewhat disconnected from the real world, so it's easy to worry that people outside my field might not understand or care about what I am doing,” said Rahman. “Knowing that the Goldwater committee sees value in my research and aspirations has helped reaffirm my desire to keep pursuing my goals.”

Rahman is currently conducting research focused on general relativity. Under the guidance of Prof. Robert Wald, he is attempting to understand if, and if so, how, incoming gravitational radiation might alter the structure of a black hole and what consequences such an alteration might have. Rahman first developed an interest in general relativity when he took an introductory course on the subject from Wald. “I found the theory, in particular its elegant weaving of concrete physical ideas with high-powered mathematical machinery, to be both fascinating and profound.”

Rahman also has been engaged in a research project in mathematical hydrodynamics. Outside of the classroom, Rahman is a member of the Ransom Notes a cappella group and has served as a tutor for the Harper Tutors Program and the Department of Physics’ Bridge Program.

Sweeting is a mathematics major and history minor who plans to study number theory in graduate school. After earning a doctorate in theoretical math, Sweeting would like to teach at the university level.

Sweeting developed a love for math at a young age, and her interests were solidified through participation in math competitions at the middle school and high school level.

“I’ve always been fascinated by open problems—even ones that I knew were completely unapproachable,” said Sweeting. “I am amazed that with all the brilliance that has gone into mathematics for centuries and all the problems that have been solved, there are still simple mathematical questions that no one can answer. The thought of one day solving some of them myself has always been irresistible to me.”

Last summer, she completed an independent reading project about geometric measure theory and served as a teaching assistant at UChicago’s NSF Research Grant Summer Bootcamp, in which she planned curriculum and supervised student lectures. This summer, Sweeting will study number theory and arithmetic geometry at Emory University.

“I find number theory fascinating because it combines very concrete questions—many open problems could be understood by middle school students—with diverse and sophisticated methods drawn from very abstract areas of math.”

When she’s not engaged in math, Sweeting is a member of UChicago’s College Bowl team. She also participated in the European Civilization in Paris study abroad program.

Rahman and Sweeting were supported throughout their application process by the College Center for Scholarly Advancement, which supports undergraduates and College alumni through the highly competitive application processes for prestigious national scholarships and fellowships.