Three MIT Students Honored as 2024-25 Goldwater Scholars

Three students from MIT — Ben Lou, Srinath Mahankali, and Kenta Suzuki — have been awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships for the upcoming academic year, 2024-25. They stand out among the 438 recipients nationwide chosen for their exceptional academic achievements, selected from a pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, with about 1,350 nominees vying for the prestigious scholarship.

For the past three decades, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has granted nearly 11,000 scholarships to students pursuing research careers in the natural sciences, math, and engineering, aiming to cultivate future leaders in these fields. The scholarship recipients, including the trio from MIT, typically set their sights on doctoral studies in their specialized domains.

Ben Lou’s

Ben Lou, a third-year student from San Diego, California, is currently studying physics and math while minoring in philosophy.

“I delve into a myriad of disciplines for my research interests, seeking to establish innovative links between various math and physics aspects to propel the boundaries of knowledge,” Lou expresses.

Since January 2022, he has collaborated with Nergis Mavalvala, the School of Science dean, and Hudson Loughlin, a graduate student in the LIGO group dedicated to gravitational wave detection. Their work focuses on enhancing quantum measurement techniques and exploring the intricacies of quantum gravity.

Emphasizing Lou’s intellectual prowess and independent work ethic, Mavalvala comments, “Ben exhibits exceptional intellectual capacity and operates with remarkable autonomy, assuring a bright future in physics awaits him.”

Lou acknowledges the pivotal support he has received from mentors like Alan Guth, Barton Zwiebach, Richard Price, Janet Conrad, Elijah Bodish, Roman Bezrukavnikov, and David W. Brown, all instrumental in guiding his research endeavors.

In his envisioned future as a theoretical physics professor, Lou aspires to investigate the fundamental principles of reality and nurture a passion for math and physics among his students.

Besides his academic pursuits, Lou also serves as the vice president of the Assistive Technology Club at MIT and actively engages in fundraising for Spinal Muscular Atrophy research, with aspirations of continuing his philanthropic efforts and advising assistive technology enterprises.

Srinath Mahankali’s

Srinath Mahankali, a third-year student hailing from New York City, is pursuing a major in computer science.

Since June 2022, Mahankali has been part of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as an undergraduate researcher. Under the guidance of Pulkit Agrawal, head of the Improbable AI Lab, Mahankali’s research centers on training robots, currently focusing on enhancing the energy efficiency of quadruped robots and creating autonomous agents for minimal-feedback environments. He envisions crafting robots capable of performing athletic feats like gymnastics in the future.

Agrawal lauds Mahankali’s research acumen, remarking, “Engaging in research discussions with Srinath mirrors interactions with top PhD students in my group due to his fearlessness, creativity, persistence, and ability to reach conclusions.”

Prior to his MIT tenure, Mahankali was recognized as a 2021 Regeneron STS scholar and a participant in the MIT PRIMES program in 2020, exploring optimization problems with Yunan Yang, a math professor at Cornell University.

As he aims to secure a PhD and establish his own robotics and artificial intelligence research team, Mahankali expresses gratitude to his mentors Zhang-Wei Hong, Gabe Margolis, Promit Ghosal, and all the Improbable AI Lab members for their guidance and support.

Kenta Suzuki’s

Kenta Suzuki, a third-year student with a mathematics major from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Tokyo, Japan, is currently engaged in research alongside professor Roman Bezrukavnikov, focused on the confluence of number and representation theory utilizing geometric methodologies for p-adic group representation.

His collaboration with math professors Wei Zhang and Zhiwei Yun, particularly the latter’s influence on his pursuit of representation theory research, has been influential in Suzuki’s academic journey.

Offering his commendation, Yun describes Suzuki as “the most talented undergraduate student I have worked with, showcasing a blend of raw talent, mathematical maturity, and research acumen.”

Prior to joining MIT, Suzuki earned accolades as a Yau Science Award USA finalist in 2020, receiving gold in mathematics, and was honored by the Davidson Institute Fellows program in 2021. His participation in the MIT PRIMES program exposed him to mathematical research under the mentorship of Michael Zieve at the University of Michigan, shaping his scholarly path.

Looking ahead, Suzuki envisions pursuing a PhD in pure mathematics, continuing his exploration of representation and number theory, and ultimately, sharing his expertise at a research-oriented academic institution.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship program, established in 1986 by the U.S. Congress in honor of Senator Barry Goldwater, a distinguished national figure, provides recipients with scholarships of up to $7,500 annually to offset tuition, accommodation, fees, and book expenses.

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