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UC Berkeley's top graduating senior talks about struggles, inspiration

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This year's top student at UC Berkeley is a millennial who shies away from things like Twitter and Facebook. Instead, Kaavya Valiveti says she has a greater connection to math. (KGO-TV)

This year's top student at UC Berkeley is a millennial who shies away from things like Twitter and Facebook. Instead, Kaavya Valiveti says she has a greater connection to math. She'll receive the University Medal and deliver the commencement speech at Cal a week from Saturday.

When she's not teaching a class in math to other Cal students, or volunteering at an after-school literacy program. But what she enjoys doing the most is pure mathematics.

"It really never stops," she said. "We ultimately realize we understand almost nothing so it's really a never ending journey to keep questioning, keep trying, to understand and dig deeper and hopefully arrive at something."

Hollywood has made a few movies inspired by math intellectuals and their struggle to make some kind of contribution in their world.

Valiveti had her own struggles.

"I was really struggling to find motivation, a reason to do anything and it took something pretty strong," she said. "I think making me feel like I had a passion."

She found motivation and passion through her professors at Cal. Now, she wants other women to know that math is within their reach.

"Oftentimes women have been welcomed by the majority of men, but we are changing society and I'm optimistic," she said.

Her other passion is playing the harmonium an instrument played in classic Indian music and spending time with young Latino elementary school students teaching them about literacy.

All of her work acknowledged with the university medal.

"In that sense encouraging for me personally but still overwhelmed by all of this," she said.

From here Valiveti is headed to MIT to work on her Ph.D.

Related Topics:
educationstudentsUC BerkeleymathUC Berkeley
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