Valley resident earns Herz Medal at UNR
A Carson Valley resident and 1995 Whittell High School valedictorian was one of three recipients of top academic prizes given by the University of Nevada, Reno at graduation ceremonies Sunday.
Adam Altman, 22, who also received his bachelor’s degree in computer science Sunday, said receiving the Herz Gold Medal was gratifying in light of the work that went into his 4.0 grade point average.
“I put in a good many hours of work to get good grades,” Altman said. “The first three years were not too bad, but my last year was pretty intense.”
Altman was the top junior class scholar in the UNR campus chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and is a co-inventor of the “WordWand derollercoastering algorithm” used in barcode scanners.
As a senior, he was a member of a team of Nevada computer science students who placed in the top half of the field at the Nov. 14 Association for Computing Machinery Regional Competition in Chico, California.
Altman is considered a quiet, team-oriented leader, according to one of his UNR mentors, associate professor of computer science, Mohamed Fayad.
“He’s the best student I’ve seen in my four years in the department,” Fayad said.
n Proud parents. Altman’s parents are Don and Kum Altman of Carson Valley, formerly Lake Tahoe. Don, 51, is a clerk technician for the United States Post Office, and Kum, 53, is a Korean immigrant who became a citizen this year. She has worked in the casino industry over the years.
Don said his only child has been a self-motivated student since kindergarten.
“He has always been a good student and dedicated to his studies,” Don said, adding that Adam was fortunate to attend a high school where (he estimated) 98 percent of his 1995 classmates went on to some institution of higher learning.
“He got a good education at Whittell,” Don said. “The faculty was very good. He had an outstanding class. He was also one of the student advisors to the school board.”
n Two other scholars from Nevada. Also receiving Herz Gold Medals Sunday were Spencer Ericksen, an electrical engineer major from Carson City; and Tasha Palmer, a chemical engineering major from Sparks. The solid gold medallion, awarded by R. Herz and Bros. of Reno, has been presented annually since 1910. This is the first time in four years that Nevada has had a trio of Herz Gold Medalists from the same class.
“It is always a rewarding experience when the university community has the opportunity to recognize such dedicated scholars as Adam, Spencer and Tasha,” said UNR President Joe Crowley. “These three talented students are on a path to great success.”
Altman said he appreciated being in the company of other good students in receiving the Herz medal.
“I thought it was great that Spencer and Tasha got it,” he said. “I know them both.”
n Future plans in a field he loves. Altman plans to go on to graduate school and was accepted at many universities known for excellent computer science programs including the University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – all of which offered him full ride scholarships. He selected Stanford University (no full ride), however, because of its extensive artificial intelligence program, which is of particular interest to the UNR scholar and its proximity to the heart of the computer industry in Silicon Valley.
Altman said his future plans include getting a master’s degree from Stanford and most likely a doctorate after that. He said he hopes to do research at a well-respected lab such as Lawrence Livermore, for example, and further study artificial intelligence or modeling and visualization in the computer graphics area.
Adam’s father said he is confident his son will continue his success in the field of computer science, not only because he is a naturally dedicated student but because he enjoys the subject matter.
“I am happy for him because he is fortunate that the field he has chose is one that he truly loves,” Don said.