Wheaton juniors Lithia Helmreich ’16 and Jake Horowitz ’16 are spending their spring semester in Budapest, Hungary enrolled in two highly competitive programs in computer science and mathematics.
Helmreich, a computer science major, is the first Wheaton student accepted to the Aquincum Institute of Technology (AIT), which only enrolls up to 50 students per term. Her acceptance is a huge win for Wheaton, according to Professor of Computer Science Mark LeBlanc. AIT representatives made Wheaton one of their recruiting stops this fall.
“AIT gets it. They have small classes, good faculty and a very applied view of entrepreneurship, research and careers for the liberal arts student,” LeBlanc said. “Lithia’s acceptance has put us on their radar.”
Helmreich, who arrived in Budapest on January 12, will start her studies with a Hungarian language course, also taking courses in basic and advanced computer science and arts and humanities. And she will participate in extracurricular opportunities, such as visits to the city’s famous thermal baths, guided tours and hiking trips.
“I applied to AIT because I really wanted a study abroad program that would allow me to take computer science courses as well as experience a culture entirely different from what I’m used to here at Wheaton,” Helmreich said. “AIT will allow me to take courses in English and still benefit from living in a country where English isn’t the first language.”
This fall, Helmreich and fellow computer science major Julia Morneau ’16 attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. And Helmreich already has an internship lined up for when she returns to the states in May. She’ll be working for a startup company based in Ann Arbor, Mich. that creates customer service tools for e-commerce sites.
LeBlanc worked with Helmreich on Lexomics last summer, a research position funded through her Balfour Scholarship.
“She wrote the most wonderful instantiation of a tool that Professor Mike Drout in English wanted. The tool is called Rolling Window Analysis and allows a user to ‘walk up and down’ their texts, search for patterns and zoom in for close-up views. By the end of the summer, she had emerged as the software lead,” LeBlanc said.
Horowitz, a double major in mathematics and economics, is Wheaton’s second student to participate in the Budapest Semester in Mathematics (BSM) program—”the gold standard for U.S. undergraduates studying mathematics abroad,” according to Professor of Mathematics Tommy Ratliff. The program accepts only about 40 students each semester. Last year, mathematics major Emma Hartman ’14 was the first Wheaton student accepted to the program.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to be exposed to the larger mathematical community and to have an immersive mathematical experience in a country with a very strong mathematical tradition,” Ratliff said. “Jake and Emma Hartman’s participation shows our students that they are capable of working with other students from some of the strongest math programs in the country.”
After completing the BSM program in 2013, Hartman was able to choose from several National Science Foundation-funded research experiences, working the following summer at Mount Holyoke College. She is currently applying to graduate schools.
Like Helmreich, Horowitz will begin with an intensive introductory class in Hungarian and will take four advanced mathematics courses during the semester.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Janice Sklensky is Horowitz’s advisor and hired him as a first-year student to be a Quantitative Analysis tutor starting his sophomore year. He also stood out in the Multivariable Calculus course he took with Sklensky his first year.
“In that class, both his grasp of and interest in the material were strong. He earned the highest score on the final, for instance, but more importantly he asked the sort of questions that showed he was genuinely enjoying the material: looking for connections with past material we’d covered, and trying to anticipate where the concepts would lead,” Sklensky said.
“I applied to BSM because I wanted a new challenge, and a new adventure, and I heard Budapest was a pretty neat city,” Horowitz said. “I am most looking forward to immersing myself in the city’s sights, sounds and many tastes, as well as the challenge of learning in a foreign environment surrounded by strangers.”