You never know when you’re going to find your calling. For some, it’s a lifelong search. For Zebediah Engberg, it took a few math classes at Hampshire.
“I didn’t fall in love with math until I got here,” says Engberg. “The math classes surpassed my expectations so much that I knew I would have to focus on that.”
Number theory, in particular, is what really catches Engberg’s attention.
Essentially a study of the properties of integers (negative and positive numbers and zero, excluding fractions), it’s a field that has captivated some of history’s greatest mathematical minds.
As a rock climber, Engberg has earned a reputation internationally as a top competitor.
His passion for climbing is similar to what he feels for mathematical problems, where the challenge is the analysis of all the factors involved and the attempt to overcome what can sometimes seem like insurmountable odds.
For his Div III (senior thesis), he focused on a family of equations studied by the Greek mathematician Diophantus in the third century A.D.
“I first saw the problem two or three years ago in a number theory class. It seems so pure. And you don’t need analytic techniques to work on it. You can start collecting data immediately, just add and multiply the numbers together,” says Engberg.
For the next five years, Engberg will study number theory at Dartmouth College in a Ph.D. program.
It was a choice that he says was made possible by the freedom at Hampshire College.