Hometown: Sfaray, Lebanon
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics
Internships: Mathematical research (2011-12) that resulted in professional presentations at Mathematical Association of America (MAA) MathFest in Lexington, Ky. (Aug. 2011), Joint Mathematical Meeting of MAA and American Mathematical Society in Boston, Mass. (Jan. 2012) and International Conference on Signal Processing in Paris, France (Aug. 2012)
Activities: Co-founder of WCSU Math Society, treasurer (fall 2011), president (spring 2012); part-time work at the WCSU Math Clinic and Tutoring Resource Center, part-time work at Stop & Shop
Honors and Awards: 4.0 GPA, Dean's List every semester, Gloria Brunell award (2011-12), Arlyne M. O'Boy Scholarship (2010-11), winner of Provost's prize at 2012 Western Research Day
They say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and WCSU student Sami Merhi is living proof of that. Mehri describes mathematics as "beautiful."
"The beauty and genius of mathematical work captivated my attention at an early age, Merhi says. "I have always looked forward to math classes and math homework — they were just fun. Going into high school, I realized how essential math is to all the other fields, especially the natural sciences, which I admired. By the end of high school, I knew I was going to college for a degree in mathematics."
Merhi, who graduated from high school in Lebanon in 2009, moved with his family to the United States a week after graduation. When his family returned to Lebanon, he initially lived with a cousin and began his collegiate studies at Brevard Community College in Melbourne, Fla. After a semester, he relocated to Danbury to live with his aunt, where he enrolled at Western in spring 2010. "At first, it was all about location," Merhi says. "I was living five minutes away from the Midtown campus. However, like other incoming students, I was overwhelmed by the negative reputation state universities have among college students. I decided to stick with WCSU for a short while, to test this negative hypothesis myself. Two semesters after my admission to WCSU, I was taking senior-level classes, working with the best faculty any student could wish for and preparing for an all-expenses-paid math conference."
Merhi says he's never been a follower of mainstream ways of thought or judgment, and his experiences at Western made him a stronger believer that he would stay at WCSU until graduation. "This decision was probably the best I have ever made — for what resulted from it was much more than I ever expected."
Once at Western, Merhi says he surrounded himself with "great faculty members who not only explained the textbook material, but more importantly helped me realize how beautiful math can be. My research adviser, Dr. Xiaodi Wang, has helped me throughout my undergraduate years, beyond the scope of schoolwork. He has provided much-needed advice and guided me toward my goals. I am forever grateful for the time he spent with me. My only hope is to make him proud in the future."
Asked what he will remember most about his Western experience, Merhi says, "The mathematical research that culminated in two national conferences (MathFest, JMM) and another international conference (ICSP), has to be one of my most amazing and memorable experiences. The research paper I co-authored with my classmate, Pierce O’Donnell, and my adviser, Dr. Wang, was published in the ICSP conference proceedings."
Merhi has been admitted to two Ph.D. programs in Applied Mathematics: one at Tulane University and another at Michigan State University. "In both cases, I was offered a teaching assistantship that will waive my tuition and provide me with additional income," Merhi says. "I have decided to accept MSU’s offer."
Merhi’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: "Know your priorities, sort them by relevance and get them done. Do not be a follower; rather, have an independent way of thinking and make everyone else look up to you and follow in your steps. Get as close as you can to your faculty, as soon as possible. Success requires connections as much as it requires knowledge."