Sam started soaking up math when he was two years old. His mind thinks in terms of equations and numerical relationships just as easily as most people think in words and sentences. He particularly enjoys mental field trips to dig into the deep, hidden foundations of mathematics. "These structures fascinate me — both the ones inside mathematics and the ones in the outside world, our world, that are defined by mathematics," he says.

For the Intel Science Talent Search, Sam explored an arcane realm that few ordinary mortals can grasp: determinantal sequences. Even among mathematicians, probing the building-block structures of these sequences is considered high-level stuff. A study of one limited class of sequences — where the determinant factor, or d, is 1 — earned the top math prize at the 2001 Intel Science & Engineering Fair for Matthew B. Satriano, then 17 and a senior at Sam's school. Now, Sam has cracked a much tougher nut: the results for any value of d.

Could the existence of a general solution to determinantal sequences find real-world applications? Maybe, says Sam. Cryptology might be one possibility. A practical use for his work would be frosting on the cake, he says. "To me, the process of finding and understanding — and utilizing — these structures is extremely exciting."

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COMMENTS On The Issues

Sustainable development: I'm against this when it's imposed on the private sector — say, by zoning laws that restrict property development. But I'm for it when it's a private-sector initiative designed to reduce consumption of resources.

Space policy: Same comment as for sustainable development.

Social Security: I'm a libertarian. I don't believe in funding programs like Social Security and Medicare through coercive taxation. They should be voluntary programs.


Samuel M. Bhagwat

Winston Churchill High School
Livonia, Mich.

Hobbies: Guitar, history, economics, captain of the varsity Quiz Bowl team, and learning Marathi, his father's native language

Ambition: Economics or stock market finance