Mathematics major took PhD level course as a sophomore

It’s not a class where you’re likely to find many undergraduates.

Indeed, the 500-level “Theory of Functions of Real Variable II” is a graduate course in mathematics that goes beyond what incoming PhD students are expected to know for their qualifying exam.

Annie WeiAnnie WeiBut last year, Annie Wei, then a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, was among the 13 students in the class.

“I may have been a bit nervous,” allows Wei. “But I knew how much I wanted to study every day, what I wanted to read, and which problems I wanted to do.”

“Sometimes,” she adds, “I’d ask the professor questions to make sure I am understanding it properly.”

That professor—the renowned Rutgers mathematician Yanyan Li—said Wei crushed it, earning an A for the course.

“My view was that she was in the top three of the class” says Li, a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. “Annie not only excelled in completing all the homework assignments and tackling problems, she also actively participated in discussions, often raising insightful topics.”

Wei, now a junior, was among four Rutgers students to receive a 2024 Goldwater Scholarship, one of the premier awards for undergraduates in science, technology, and mathematics.

“I want to thank all my professors and mentors,” Wei said. “This feels like a milestone toward an academic career, and I am very grateful.”

Named after the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, the undergraduate research scholarship program recognizes outstanding students and encourages them to pursue careers in mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.

It is the 19th consecutive year that Rutgers-New Brunswick students have been selected as Goldwater Scholars, which awards recipients up to $7,500 to help cover costs associated with room and board, tuition, fees and books. Winners were chosen from a pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors nominated by 446 academic institutions.

Wei was first drawn to mathematics in middle school, discovering a love for Euclidean geometry.

“I remember having a lot of fun in that class and in putting together the proofs,” she said.

She feels right at home in the Department of Mathematics in SAS, long known for its research-rich culture.

“It is a very big department, and strong in many areas of math,” she said. “When I talk to professors and they tell me what they are working on, I get inspired.”

Wei intends to pursue a PhD in mathematics and forge a career in teaching and research. Her area of interest is geometry and analysis.

“The Chinese word for ‘analysis’ means breaking things up into little pieces,” she said. “A lot of analysis is decomposing things into little pieces to understand them better.

“It takes a lot of work, but you eventually understand what is going on.”