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The MS university topper who has four gold medals

Last updated on: October 18, 2013 19:56 IST

The MS university topper who has four gold medals


A Ganesh Nadar

S Alagu who recently topped her post graduation in Science with 95 per cent is the first student from MS University to have aced three subjects to receive four gold medals -- the highest by any student so far.

S Alagu is 22 years old and she has done something that no one has in Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu -- she's the first and only recipient of four gold medals from the university.

Alagu has not only topped the University’s post-graduation course in Science (MSc), but has also scored the highest marks in Tamil, English and Mathematics.

It's part of a distinguished academic career that began with high scores in the SSC and HSC examinations and led to three gold medals on graduating with a BSc in 2011 (96.2 per cent).

Her achievement in coming top of the MSc course (with 95 per cent) has added an unprecedented fourth gold medal to the tally. 

Academic excellence seems to be in Alagu's genes -- father Somasundaram, who had graduated with top honours from Madurai Kamaraj University in 1980, is a mathematics professor in MS University.

In 2010 he was named Scientist of the Year by the Tamil Nadu Government.

Alagu's mother Thangam holds triple degrees -- MSc, M Phil and M Ed. She topped Madurai Kamaraj University in 1987 in Physics. She too is a lecturer.

Alagu's younger sister Anandhi received a citation from the Mayor for scoring 99 per cent in Prathmic Hindi, an exam conducted by the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha. She scored 492 marks out of 500 in the state board examination and is currently studying in class 11.

Alagu, who is now doing her M Phil in mathematics from St John's College Tirunelvi (which is affiliated to MS University), talks about how she managed to ace her exams with no private coaching, what motivates her during lean times, and gives some tips on choosing a career.

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Image: S Alagu is the only topper from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University who has four gold medals to her credit
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/


'I have a natural inclination towards Tamil and English literature'

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Were you always a bright student?

I did my best but it worked out only in college. In school, I was one among many.

Which are your favourite subjects?

I like Mathematics, Tamil and English. Mathematics because the way my father teaches the subject made me like the subject. He hypnotised me totally.

I have a natural inclination towards Tamil and English literature.

I don't like Biology, I don’t know why.

Did you take private coaching or tuitions?

No, Never!

So how did you do so well? What’s the secret?

In Mathematics when there is a problem to solve, I work till I get it.

I am lucky that I have a teacher on call 24 hours a day in my father. I take his help. I ask my teachers and I do it. I will not stop till I solve it.

Once I am done then I will relax. I will read a magazine or watch TV. There are no fixed hours. It is always as long as it takes.

Image: S Alagu at her study desk
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/

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'I want to be a great orator like Perarignar Annadurai'

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Did you ever face competition/jealousy from your batch mates?

Not really. My friends used to encourage me to do better. If I got low marks they would say, 'Now your parents will be upset'.

There was no one competing with me. Jealousy will always be there. It is natural. I just ignored them. We have better things to do in life. I didn't worry about that.

What was your parents' reaction when the gold medals came? Who is your mentor?

They were very happy. When I got 93 per cent in HSC everyone wanted me to either go for medicine or engineering. People were shocked that I chose to do a BSc.

I am happy that my parents were bold enough to allow me to follow my heart. I am very thankful to them.

My mentors are my parents.

Who inspires you and why?

My first inspiration was T Paramasivan, a retired professor from MS University. He was a walking encyclopedia. He used to tell us that knowledge should never be limited to one subject; it has to have a wide base.

Perarignar Annadurai is my second inspiration. I am inspired by his oratory. I like his speeches in English and Tamil. I want to be a great orator like him.

My third inspiration is professor Kumaresan from Central University, Hyderabad. He is a mathematician.  He conducts special MTTS (Mathematics Training and Talent Search) classes for students every year.

Image: S Alagu with her mother Thangam who has three degrees from Madurai Kamraj University and is also a gold medallist
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/

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'When I wasn't studying, I'd spend time with my family'

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Did you spend most of your childhood preparing for exams?

Never! I spent enough time studying, not my whole time. When I wasn't studying, I'd spend time with my family. I also used to read a lot. 

Your advice to students and their parents preparing for board exams/competitive tests?

Do not mug up. I have seen students scoring centum (100 per cent marks) in HSc and then failing in college. That's because they had mugged up the syllabus in HSC.

This is not possible in college. You have to understand your subject and then you will be able to answer any question on the subject.

To parents, my only advice is to leave the kids alone.

Besides text books what do you read?

I read a lot of magazines. I love Shoba De's columns. I read books on psychology. I also read Tamil books like Kamalambal Saritram.

What books/novels would you recommend for young readers?

Dale Carnegie is the best. You don't have to read all his books, you should read two: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Develop Self-Confidence.

It will change your perspective about life, you will really start to enjoy life.

You should also read Shiv Khera's You Can Win.

What are your interests?

I like to read both Tamil and English novels, besides books on Mathematics.

Why did you choose to do a BSc? What career scope is there?

When I chose BSc there was a craze for engineering. I realised that choosing science would give me an edge over them because there are comparatively fewer takers.

To answer your second question, there are many career options to choose from after pursuing BSc.

You can pursue research and publish papers. Once you publish your own papers then the sky is the limit. 

Image: Alagu (second from left) with her father Somasundaram, sister Anandi and mother Thangam
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/

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'Find out what makes you happy, make that your career'

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Have you ever encountered failure? What did you learn from it?

Never! Nothing big enough for me to mention.

Have you received any scholarships?

After my BSc I applied for a UGC scholarship for post-graduate study and I got it. The scholarship was Rs 40,000. 

What are your career plans?

I am doing my M Phil in Mathematics at MS University. I will pursue my career in research in mathematics.

How do you motivate yourself when you are low?

I talk to my teachers and parents when I am low and feel discouraged. They have always encouraged me and brought me out of that mood.

I share everything with my parents. They have always been a morale booster.

What is your advice/message to our young readers?

I am not qualified to give advice. I can only give suggestions.

Always follow your heart. Don't think of making a quick buck.

Don't choose a career that gives more money. Choose a career that you love, that you enjoy doing, that you enjoy studying.

Never choose a professional course because everyone is doing it.

Find out what makes you happy, what you love to do the most. Do that, make that your career. Make that your life.

Image: S Alagu with her sister Anandi showing a picture of the latter receiving a citation from the Tirunelveli mayor for scoring 99 per cent in Prathmic Hindi
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/

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