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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
Honorable Intentions
The Cardinal of Westwood
The Littlest Bruin
Sensing the Future
Dershowitz, For the Defense
Bruin Walk

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Winter 2003
The Littlest Bruin
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Catherine in the classroom
In the classroom, Catherine's attention is focused.

Catherine's ability to discern intrinsic patterns is demonstrated while showing off a print that hangs in her bedroom of Giotto's Lamentation Over Jesus. "I like this picture because it's actually geometrical," she says. "Let's see, why is it geometrical? If you look at the center, it's this guy's head, which is obviously not the main point of the picture. So you follow this line, and because the guy is pointing at the line, you go up here and go to the tree," she says, tracing the path. "And then it goes to the angels, and the angels are pointing downward … and if you try to look anywhere else these few more men block it. So you have to look here, and that is where the focus of the painting is."

The moment puts one in mind of the scene in A Beautiful Mind in which mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, stands under an intensely star-filled sky with his future wife, played by Jennifer Connelly, and asks her to select any shape she can imagine — she picks an umbrella. Taking her hand, he guides it among the infinite glimmers of the canopy and, to her amazement, tags the exact points of light that describe the pattern she's chosen.

Both of Catherine's parents have characterized their daughter's attendance at UCLA as an adventure and an experiment. They are not pushing her to stay if she feels it is too tough. She can always withdraw, they say, and come back in a few years when she is more seasoned.

"We've given her the option to leave many times," Hackwood says. "She doesn't have to do this."

But after six weeks, Catherine is doing well. She made good grades on her midterms and isn't finding her classes — even the very tough upper-division math analysis course — too daunting. Nor is she deterred by the kinds of technical catastrophes that can ruin the day, week or even quarter of any student. When her computer crashed and devoured four days' worth of work on a program for her C++ class, she sat down and redid everything from memory in under an hour.

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