Math Major Christopher Brice Scores Top 5 in Math League Competition, Selected for REU with Ivy League Peers

Awarding-winning Mathematics major Christopher Brice
Awarding-winning Mathematics major Christopher Brice

May 15, 2024

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, (NCES), about a third of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions are over the age of 25. At Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY), students enroll not just to “Start Here, Go Anywhere,” as the college slogan goes, but to “Restart Here”—and go further than they ever imagined.

BMCC Mathematics major Christopher Brice is a good example of what that means.

Born in New York, he moved to Florida with his parents at age six, completed high school and started college at the University of Florida. His academic performance reflected the fact that, as he puts it, “I was not very good at behaving as an adult.”

Next, he transferred to a community college in Florida, then stopped out again and spent a few years working.

“I washed dishes at Chipotle, painted apartments, worked as a delivery driver for a pizza shop and then moved to New York in August 2021, and started working as a driver for FedEx,” he says.

In 2022, Brice enrolled at BMCC.

“I knew what I wanted to do—be a professor of mathematics and do research—and it felt like the right time to go back,” he says.

“I was more mature. After being away from academic environments for a few years, I had stopped taking my education for granted. I was excited to give it another chance.”

Brice joins clubs, tutors other students and scores in the top five for the Northeast Region, in Math League Competition

At BMCC, Brice found an academic environment that recognized his talent. He also joined several like-minded student communities.

“I’ve been a member of the BMCC Math Team since 2022, and I was a president of the Open Educational Resources Club,” he says.

Through the BMCC Mathematics Team led by Mathematics Professor Jason Samuels, Brice has taken part in the 2022-2023 American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) Math League Competitions and scored in the top five students, for the Northeast region of the country.

He also held a work study position through the Open Educational Resources (OER) program at BMCC.

“I think my title was Peer Assistance Learning Leader, but effectively I was a tutor online and in the BMCC Math Lab,” he says. “I was also a Teacher’s Assistant in the classroom for whatever class I was assigned that semester.”

Brice is one of nine students—alongside those from NYU, Yale, Columbia and others—selected for REU project

In his last year at BMCC, Brice took part in an NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site, “Queens Experiences in Discrete (QED) Mathematics” at York College, CUNY in Jamaica, Queens.

They got clever with that project name, he explains. “‘QED’ is Latin, Quod Erat Demonstrandum, which means, ‘What was to be demonstrated.’ You put it at the end of a math proof to show it’s been completed.”

Each year, only nine students from colleges and universities in New York City are selected to join QED at York College and conduct research in discrete mathematics over the course of the academic year.

Brice was selected alongside students from CUNY, NYU, Columbia and Yale.

Participants in QED at York College also receive a stipend up to $9,000 and earn six college credits. They conduct research in discrete mathematics subfields such as graph theory, which was Brice’s research focus.

Abigail Raz, an award-winning mathematician and assistant professor of mathematics at The Cooper Union in New York City, was Brice’s QED mentor.

In her Cooper Union bio, Dr. Raz says she looks forward to working with students “to explore not only the use but also the beauty of modern mathematics.”

Brice shares that appreciation for the beauty of math and the allure of the unsolved.

“You don’t always have to know where an area of math research is going or how it’s going to be useful in the future,” Brice says.

“Look at Srinivasa Ramanujan, who died in 1920, and his work on number theory. It’s a subject that doesn’t seem like it would have any contact with anything practical or in the ‘real world,’ but some of that work is being used today in cryptography, and it’s helping the banking industry make their data more secure.”

Through the QED at York College project, Brice met with Professor Raz every week and completed research that she assigned.

“Every advisor has their own project, and they give you parts of it to work on by yourself,” Brice explains. “You think about the ideas, making calculations, making statements and trying to prove those statements.”

Along with two other mentees of Dr. Raz, Brice presented his research and proofs on combinatorics, “Zero Forcing on ILT Graphs” at the April 2024 Converge Conference at York College.

In a way, it’s his second time across the commencement stage.

As this article goes to press, Brice is awaiting news on the colleges he applied to, for Fall 2024. He’s excited about crossing the BMCC commencement stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 5.

“It’s actually the second time I’ve crossed the BMCC commencement stage,” he says.

“My mom graduated from BMCC in 1998, and she was pregnant with me when she crossed the stage to get her diploma. She got her associate degree in Respiratory Therapy, and went to work right away at Mt. Sinai.”

After working as a Respiratory Therapist in New York, Nadine Brice (Nadine Joseph while attending BMCC) continued her career as a Respiratory Therapist at Cape Coral Hospital in Cape Coral, Florida.

She says the role of respiratory therapists was put to the test during the Covid pandemic, which emerged in Spring 2020.

“Things were very stressful and horrific,” says Nadine Brice. “My colleagues and I were giving our all, to save our patients’ lives. While the ones that regained their health made it rewarding, watching so many patients die was the saddest part of my career.”

She also took five weeks off to stay home and care for her husband, when he came down with Covid.

“By the grace of God, he made it through,” she says, and adds that they are both proud of their son Chris, and everything he has accomplished. “We are happy to see him graduate from BMCC and look forward to seeing what he does next.”

As for why Christopher Brice chose BMCC, “I did a lot of lurking online, checking colleges out, and I kept seeing the ‘Start Here, Go Anywhere’ logo.,” he says.

“There are tons of stories of BMCC students starting here and ending up in great places. I had a feeling, something good could happen here.”


  • Mathematics major Christopher Brice stops out after his first couple attempts at college, works a few years then enrolls at BMCC

  • This time, he’s ready to apply his passion for math, and scores in the top five, Northeast region, in the 2022-2023 AMATYC Math League Competition and is one of nine—selected alongside Ivy League peers—for a prestigious REU project

  • Nadine Brice, BMCC alumna and Christopher’s mother, was actually expecting him in 1998 when she crossed the BMCC commencement stage herself, and today continues in the role of respiratory therapist

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