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Stony Brook University Senior Awarded Prestigious Churchill Scholarship

Feb 6, 2013 - 10:00:00 AM

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Stony Brook University Churchill Scholar Kevin Sackel in front of the "Iconic Wall" of equations and diagrams at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics.
STONY BROOK, NY, February 6, 2013 – Stony Brook University senior, Kevin Sackel, an Honors College student double-majoring in Mathematics & Physics with a minor in Music, has been selected as a Churchill Scholar by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States to study at the University of Cambridge where he will spend the 2013-2014 academic year pursuing a one-year Master of Advanced Study degree in Mathematics. 
 
This prestigious award is given each year to select students that demonstrate exceptional academic talent, outstanding achievement and a capacity to contribute to the advancement of academic knowledge in their respective field. Of this year’s 14 Churchill Scholarship recipients, Sackel is the only student selected from a New York college or university. He will receive full tuition and college fees, a living allowance and a stipend for travel expenses.
 
“We are all extremely proud of Kevin for achieving such a high honor, and as such he honors Stony Brook,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University. “We have celebrated three Stony Brook educated Churchill Scholars in recent years, all of whom are brilliant. Kevin is the first to be awarded this prestigious scholarship in the tremendously competitive Cambridge Department of Pure Mathematics. That he has accomplished this underlines his prowess as well as that of our Math Department. I could not be more impressed.”
 
“Through hard work and dedication, Kevin Sackel has clearly earned what is one of the most competitive and prestigious academic opportunities in the nation,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “As a Churchill Scholar, we are confident that he will represent New York and SUNY with distinction as he continues his studies alongside some of the world’s best and brightest young minds. Congratulations to Kevin and the entire Stony Brook community.”
 
“I am extremely honored to have been selected as a Churchill Scholar,” Sackel said. “My experience at Stony Brook University has been wonderful and I thank all of those who have supported me throughout my academic career and during the application process for this award. I am really looking forward to my experience in the Department of Pure Mathematics at Cambridge; I think it will be great fun.”
 
SBU Churchill Scholar Kevin Sackel is pictured in one of his mathematics classes.
Under the direction of Stony Brook Math Professor Christopher Bishop, himself a Churchill Scholar (1982-1983), Sackel is working on his undergraduate thesis involving questions of mathematical analysis. Professor Bishop fully supported Sackel’s application and noted that he “is the best candidate for a Churchill Scholarship I have ever seen, or expect to see.” Sackel has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average at Stony Brook University.
 
Sackel also conducted independent research involving algebraic structures under the direction of Professor Martin Rocek of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. Additional faculty sponsors supporting Kevin’s application include Professors Moira Chas and Dennis Sullivan in the Department of Mathematics. Professor Chas praises Sackel’s “fantastic mind” and ranks him as “the best student I have met in my more than 20 years of teaching.” Professor Sullivan, the winner of the Wolf Prize in Mathematics (2010), in detail relates his “astonishment” at Sackel’s problem-solving abilities and describes his unique personal qualities as “very rare.”
 
“I am deeply impressed by Kevin’s intelligence, commitment, humility and concern for others,” said Dr. Charles Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stony Brook University. “While it is unusual to meet a student with any one of these characteristics, to encounter someone who demonstrates them all on virtually a daily basis is indeed very special. Kevin is that special individual. There is no doubt in my mind that he will make the Churchill Scholarship program, Cambridge University and Stony Brook University very proud.”
 
In his freshman year at Stony Brook, Sackel reinvigorated the Math Club and now serves as its president. For the past four years he has represented the Mathematics Department in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition, an annual competition for undergraduate students that is considered by many to be the most prestigious university-level mathematics
SBU Churchill Scholar Kevin Sackel with friend and fellow SBU student Karen McHugh, hand out free compliments rain, snow or shine in front of the Student Activities Center each Monday.
examination in the world. He was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Pi Sigma Honors Societies as a junior and plays the oboe for the University Orchestra. He is a recipient of the Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence and is a member of the computer programming team.
 
Other honors include winning the Freshman Math Department Award; the Stony Brook Foundation Award for Excellence in Mathematics as a sophomore; and the Kugh-Sah Memorial Award in Mathematics as a junior. He regularly challenges himself with graduate level courses and in his spare time audits courses that spark his interest. He also dishes out compliments and hugs to people in front of the Student Activities Center every Monday to brighten their day.
 
After finishing his PhD in Mathematics, Sackel hopes to enter the academic world.
 
“Professorship appears to be the ideal job, since it would keep me strongly tied to the mathematical world through research while also allowing me to share my love of mathematics through teaching,” he said.
 
Kevin is the fourth student from Stony Brook to be honored as a Churchill Scholar and one of only three Churchill Scholars named this year to be graduating from a public university. Previous Churchill Scholar recipients from Stony Brook University include Rita Kalra (2005-2006), Diana David (2004-2005) and Belvin Gong (1999-2000). Stony Brook University currently has three Churchill Scholars on faculty; these include Professor Bishop, Jessica Seeliger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences; and Eugene Katz, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Biology.
 
The Winston Churchill Foundation was established in 1959, the same year that Churchill College at the University of Cambridge was established as the national and Commonwealth tribute to Sir Winston Churchill. The first Churchill Scholarships, three in number, were made in 1963, and with this new group there will be 479 Churchill Scholars. The Churchill Scholarship pays all University and College fees (ranging from $33,500 to $37,600), a living allowance (ranging from $17,700 to $21,000), transportation to and from the United Kingdom (up to $1,100), student visa expenses ($450), a Travel Award of $500, and a possible Special Research Grant up to $2,000.  Depending on the field of study, the Churchill Scholarship is worth from $52,800 to $62,600 (depending on the rate of exchange).
 
About the Mathematics Department at Stony Brook University
The Mathematics Department, founded in 1958, consistently ranks among the top 20 math departments in the country. Particular strengths include differential and symplectic geometry, algebraic geometry, algebraic topology, complex analysis, and their applications to mathematical physics. The department is host to several members of the National Academy of Sciences and holders of the National Medal of Science; and winners of all of the highest honors in the field including the three that are considered to be the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” -  the Abel Prize, the Wolf Prize and the Fields Medal. Professor John Milnor received the Abel Prize (2011), the Wolf Prize (1989) and the Fields Medal (1962); and Professor Dennis Sullivan received the Wolf Prize (2010).

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© Stony Brook University 2013

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