Person of the Week: Michael Viscardi

ByABC News
December 9, 2005, 5:02 PM

Dec. 9, 2005 — -- Michael Viscardi is a 16-year-old mathematician from San Diego. This week, he won the prestigious Siemens-Westinghouse Competition. He beat more than 1,000 other teenagers for the $100,000 college scholarship.

His winning project?

"I formed a theorem which characterizes all such domains for which the resulting solution is rational -- namely in terms of their Riemann maps and their Bergman kernels," he said.

Viscardi has updated a late 19th century law by mathematician Lejeune Dirichlet. Viscardi figured out, in excruciating detail, how heat travels across a metal surface, and how that temperature can affect the surface of the metal.

His theory can be applied to all shapes and sizes of metal. The research could lead to better airplane wing design, better stabilization of the NASA space shuttle, and high-speed rail transportation.

First he won the regionals, and then it was onto the national competition. Viscardi is a young man who loves math.

"When you look at a nice theorem -- a proof, a very elegant proof, there's something very beautiful about it," he said.

There are no fancy gadgets and no laboratory for Viscardi. The mathematician relies on just good old dependable pencil and paper.

"There were times it was kind of depressing," he said, "Nothing seemed to work, and we would try one thing and then another thing, and we seemed to be stuck for a while."

Viscardi has beaten the odds since birth. He was born four months premature and weighed under two pounds.

He is home-schooled by his mom, who has a doctorate in neuroscience. When he was 13, he began to outsmart his mother at math and began taking courses at the University of California at San Diego.

He continues to impress even the most erudite professors.

When Viscardi isn't solving math problems, he's playing music. He is also the concertmaster of the San Diego Youth Symphony.

"They kind of give me balance," Viscardi said. "So when I do a lot of math and I'm doing less music, I start to feel a little bit funny, and then I go and practice one of my instruments and I realize that's why I felt strange. I really need a combination of both in order to feel right."

With the $100,000 he received, Viscardi hopes to attend Harvard University.

What about the long term?

"That would be fantastic if there were a 'Viscardi problem,'" he said. "But, that's not something I can really make happen, but that would be nice."

ABC News' Bob Woodruff filed this report for "World News Tonight."