Katherine Pogrebniak ’14, a computer science major, was named valedictorian on Monday at a faculty meeting. Alexander Iriza ’14, a mathematics major, was named the Latin salutatorian.
Both Pogrebniak and Iriza were nominated by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing. Pogrebniak, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., and Iriza, who is from Astoria, N.Y., were informed that they had been nominated for their position on April 18.
Both students said that they received an email asking to meet with Dean of the College Valerie Smith.
“I would have never expected that that was why I was being called in,” Pogrebniak said. “It was very surprising.”
Pogrebniak is also pursing a certificate in engineering biology.
Pogrebniak said she chose to major in computer science because she was interested in quantitative math and its applications. When she took COS 126: Introductory Computer Science as a freshman, she enjoyed the work and the applicability to real world problems, she said.
She cited her independent work as one of her academic highlights.
“I really enjoyed my independent work because it let me combine the computer science side of [my studies] with the biological side, which is something that I hadn’t gotten a chance to do in some of my other courses,” she explained.
Pogrebniak won a Churchill Scholarship this year and will pursue a Master of Philosophy in computational biology at the University of Cambridge. She said she eventually plans on going to medical school.
She started taking college-level math classes at age 8, according to a University press release.
On campus, she has served as a residential college adviser in Wilson College for two years, and she’s been heavily involved with Community House, a tutoring center on campus, both as a tutor and the Community Outreach Chair.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with a wide range of students and getting them more engaged in school,” she said.
Pogrebniak has received the Princeton Class of 1939 Scholar Award, the Princeton Accenture Prize for Computer Science and the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. She is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and was vice president of the University’s chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society.
She said that she feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to come here.
“Everyday being around all of the amazingly smart people at this school has made it a great experience,” she said.
Iriza is also pursuing certificates in applications of computing and applied and computational mathematics. He shared the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award and the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence with Pogrebniak. He also received the Andrew H. Brown Prize for Outstanding Junior in Mathematics, and he is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
He said he was surprised to find out the news, especially because he only took one Latin class at Princeton his freshman year — LAT 204: Readings in Latin Literature — After Virgil.
He explained that he started learning Latin as a freshman in high school, and he has studied the works of Caesar, Ovid, Virgil and Catullus.
He said that his interest in Latin stemmed from his history teacher in sixth grade, who taught him about Roman history.
“I kind of wanted to start Latin earlier, but my parents told me to learn Spanish because it was more practical,” he said.
He said that his parents were a big part of why he chose to major in mathematics.
“I’ve been into math since I was very small. My parents gave me math workbooks when I was 2-3 years old,” he explained.
While in middle school, he said he had a great math coach who introduced him to different math camps to get more involved in math.
On campus, he’s played the violin in the Princeton University Sinfonia for three years, and he has helped run the Princeton University Mathematics Competition. Off campus, he’s been a member of Giving What We Can and a member of the problem committee of the North American Computational Linguists Olympiad.
He will work at Pure Storage, a startup in Mountain View, Calif., this summer. He will then return to the University to pursue a master’s degree in computer science.