Binwei Yan continues MIT’s Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize winning streak

Junior Binwei Yan, a double major in Math and EECS, received the 2022 Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize as the top-scoring woman on the 83rd annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Binwei Yan

Binwei Yan, who finished in the top 16, receives a $1,000 award. She is the sixth MIT student to receive this honor since the award began in 1992, and the fourth in a row for MIT. 

For the third year in a row, MIT students corralled all five of the top Putnam Fellow spots, a striking 70 out of this year’s top 100 test-takers were MIT students, including 21 of the top 25.

She also took the Putnam exam in 2021, and it was there she made some great friendships, she says. For her, the Putnam is a “chance of communication with people of similar interest that I love most.”

The Putnam doesn’t make her nervous. “I enjoy solving math problems in my classes,” she says. “I attended the preparation session held by Prof. Yufei Zhao.”

But then again, she is a successful Olympiad veteran. She earned a silver medal in the International Mathematics Olympiad, where she received the Mariam Mirzakhani Award; earned top spots in international and Chinese programming contests, and gold medals in the Romanian and Chinese math olympiads.

“One way they might directly help is that I am very fond of education and might teach some classes.  However, I think the thinking process, the logic, and the friends I meet now might matter much more in my future career.”

Binwei studied computer science from 2020-2021 at Tsinghua University and joined MIT in the fall of 2021. Her research interests are in the various applications of machine learning. In the research group of Professor Bonnie Berger, she is working on an antibody prediction model, predicting interaction spots on a purely sequence base. And in Prof. Manolis Kellis’s lab, she is focusing on using scRNA-data to predict cell-cell communication.

“The experience at MIT is great especially as a woman in STEM, for I feel like being treated equally and there are lots of chances to communicate with friends, professors and everyone else,” she says. “I don’t think gender matters at MIT. I am very honored to be awarded with special awards for women, and would like to help in the education for the future generation, especially for girls who enjoy doing math. MIT also is able to provide the suitable training and the atmosphere of discussing math problems without being laughed at for acting like a ‘nerd.’”

Putnam Seminar undergraduate assistant and senior Dain Kim last year ranked sixth place in the competition, and was awarded the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize for being the top female scorer.

Established in 1992 by the MAA, the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize is awarded periodically to a woman whose performance on the Competition has been deemed particularly meritorious. The list of winners at MIT, to date:

  • 2022 Binwei Yan
  • 2021 Dain Kim
  • 2019 Qi Qi
  • 2018 Danielle Wang
  • 2015 Danielle Wang
  • 2010 Yinghui Wang
  • 1995 Ruth Britto-Pacumio