Mathilda Avirett-Mackenzie: B.S. in Physics, B.S. in Mathematics

After failing a math course, she rallied and came back with straight A’s

April 30, 2019

Mathilda Simone Avirett-Mackenzie was born in Boston but grew up in Atlanta. For as long as she can remember, Georgia Tech had been an important part of her life.

Because her father, Kenneth Mackenzie, was a member of faculty in the Georgia Tech College of Computing until 2003, Mathilda grew up cheering for the Yellow Jackets while being encouraged to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. No surprise that she developed a passion for science and mathematics at a young age.

While attending Atlanta Girls’ School, Mathilda spent two summers as an intern at the Materials Analysis Center, then a part of GTRI. Working there strengthened her love for STEM.

Through Georgia Tech’s Dual Enrollment program, Mathilda took college courses during her senior year in high school. That experience nailed her decision to attend Tech. “Actually experiencing the classroom environments here and walking around campus daily gave me unique insight into Georgia Tech culture,” she says. “I liked what I saw.”

Mathilda is the 2019 winner of the A. Joyce Nickelson and John C. Sutherland Prize, awarded to a top student in the College of Sciences studying at the intersection of physics and mathematics.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

I learned to never, ever give up.

I've struggled academically, personally, and socially. At times I felt like I couldn't possibly succeed. At times I couldn't imagine making it to graduation. And yet here I am, about to graduate with highest honors.

I don't think I really knew what to expect when I started here. Georgia Tech has given me the most challenging, the most rewarding, and the most fun experiences of my life. I don't even regret the many bad experiences I've had here. They have taught me my most vital skills of tenacity and courage in times of hardship.

What are your proudest achievements at Georgia Tech?

I'm the first author on a paper that is now in peer review in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, which is amazing. Papers are a big deal for undergraduate researchers. It's great to see the payoff from the past three years of work.

I got an A in a class I'd previously failed. In fact I went from struggling with motivation, class attendance, and performance to making straight A’s in my last four semesters.

Which professor(s) or class