Hometown: Beltsville, Maryland
Plans: Ph.D., Penn State University
A famous saying goes, ‘The sparkle depends on the flaws in a diamond.’ This means all my flaws and strengths make me who I am. Therefore, I can only shine brightly when I accept all of me. I learned this at UMBC.
Adaku Uchendu has had great success as a math major at UMBC, but she actually came to UMBC with the intention of studying biology. “Changing my major took a lot of courage,” she shares, because her love of mathematics did not always translate to high marks in her high school math courses. But her family and professors provided the support she needed to set challenging goals and achieve them, she says, including pursuing high-level mathematics research and competitive internships.
Uchendu joined the UMBC community after graduating from high school in Nigeria. She is a McNair Scholar and received an Undergraduate Research Award to pursue work with Bedrich Sousedik, associate professor of mathematics. She expanded on her research with Sousedik through an internship with the Federal Reserve Board, the central banking system of the United States. She has also joined Pi Mu Epsilon, the mathematics honor society.
“My UMBC journey has been a success due to the support of my parents, the excellent math professors I had, the McNair program, and most of all God, who always has my back,” Uchendu says. She shares her gratitude for that support by paying it forward — tutoring in UMBC’s Math Lab and volunteering with REACH, a student-led group that encourages high school girls in Baltimore City to pursue STEM-related careers by providing mentorship and other resources.
Next fall, Uchendu will begin a Ph.D. in information science and technology at Penn State University, pursuing interests in machine learning, data science, and cybersecurity.
Portrait by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.