BOONE, N.C. — Aeron McConnell, from Asheville, was awarded the Walter C. Connolly Endowed Award for Physics and the George Dewey Bingham, D.D.S. Endowed Award for Mathematics at the end of his first year at Appalachian State University. Both awards are given to an outstanding student majoring in the respective subjects, nominated by faculty members.
Dr. Jennifer Burris, professor in and chair of Appalachian’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said, “Aeron is not only an exceptional student, but a great person. He is kind, funny and smart. He is most deserving of the scholarship this year.”
Dr. Eric Marland, professor in and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, said in addition to academic success, McConnell’s involvement in cocurricular activities was considered in his being chosen for the mathematics award.
“He is an active member of the Math Club and volunteered to help run the SumoBots event (a robotic competition for elementary, middle and high school students held at Appalachian) this year,” Marland said.
McConnell entered Appalachian in fall 2018 with enough credits from community college courses taken while in high school to be classified as a junior by his second semester.
“I came to Appalachian without knowing what course of study I wanted to pursue,” McConnell shared. “My advisers were great — they told me to take classes in several areas that interested me, and then decide.”
He gravitated toward math, he said, because his love for the subject began early in his education. “I competed in math clubs when I was in junior high and high school. I expected to continue studying math once I got to college,” said McConnell, who joined Appalachian’s chapter of the Mathematical Association of America, also known as the Math Club, during his first semester.
Following the advice of his academic advisers, McConnell also signed up for an introductory physics class. “I happened to get one of the best professors, Dr. Burris. She is awesome and made the class so much fun,” he said.
“Dr. Burris puts in a lot of effort and it seems she wants her students to enjoy the subject,” McConnell continued. “She is also very accessible and willing to help. When I didn’t understand a difficult problem, she worked with me to lead me to the answer, without giving me the answer.”
McConnell discovered he loved physics and decided to double major in mathematics and physics. He finds the two fields of study complementary, he said. “Math establishes the rules that I use in physics. Physics is about understanding the universe we live in and how it operates. There’s something cool about studying the laws of the universe.”
In addition to Appalachian’s Math Club, McConnell is also a member of the Physics and Astronomy (PandA) Club and Team Sunergy — Appalachian’s solar vehicle team. He also serves on the Appalachian Honors Association (AHA!) Executive Team as its general body representative.
During his first semester at Appalachian, McConnell earned a spot on the Chancellor’s List, an honor awarded to undergraduates achieving a grade-point average of 3.85 or higher.
He attributes his academic success to hard work and a focus on learning.
“Some people try to get a good grade, but don’t try to learn,” McConnell said. “I’ve found that if I concentrate on thoroughly learning the material, rather than just quick memorization, the good grades will come naturally.”
When he graduates from Appalachian, McConnell plans to continue his education and earn a master’s degree and a doctorate degree, he said. “Then I’ll get a job doing what I enjoy — solving hard problems.”
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Department of Mathematical Sciences
The Department of Mathematical Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in actuarial science and mathematics, with concentrations in business, computation, life sciences, physical sciences, secondary teaching and statistics, plus a general, self-designed concentration. The department also offers the Master of Arts in mathematics, with concentrations in college teaching and secondary teaching. Learn more at https://mathsci.appstate.edu.
About the Department of Physics and Astronomy
The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s curriculum has an applied nature that includes a core of fundamental physics courses and laboratory experiences. The department prepares graduates for a variety of scientific, teaching or engineering professions, as well as future educational endeavors. Learn more at https://physics.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.