|Smith Scholarship Winner Will Study the "Big Picture" of Mathematics
March 11, 2008
Contact: Rachel Andoga
|Phillip Compeau is Davidson's tenth Smith Scholar.|
by Rachel Andoga
Davidson College senior Phillip Compeau has fulfilled a dream that has been years in coming. Thanks to Davidson College's W. Thomas Smith Scholarship, he will spend a year after graduation studying mathematics at Churchill College of Cambridge University.
Designed to mirror other prestigious postgraduate awards like the Rhodes and Fulbright Scholarships, the W. Thomas Smith Scholarship was established by Tom Smith '48 of Greenville, S.C. Each year, the Smith is awarded to one graduating Davidson senior for a year of study abroad in recognition of outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and service to the community. Compeau is the tenth Smith Scholar to date.
Compeau, a math major, has wanted to study at Cambridge since middle school. "My father suggested I choose Isaac Newton as the subject of my English research paper in eighth grade," he said. "I didn't know anything about Newton other than that he was a great scientist and had some kind of incident involving an apple."
He continued, "As I read a biography of Newton for the project, I became more and more fascinated. He once stared at the sun for so long that he became sick for days. He valued and protected his own work as if it were a companion. He humbly revolutionized philosophy and accelerated the Age of Reason, purely out of independent curiosity."
Since he wrote that report, Compeau has been eager to study at Cambridge, Newton's own alma mater. "Studying mathematics on the same ground where Isaac Newton quietly changed how we would come to envision the world around us really is a dream come true," he said.
|In addition to his outstanding scholarship, Compeau plays varsity tennis for the Wildcats, and captains the team this year.|
Compeau is also excited about Cambridge's approach to studying math. He said, "The point of the Cambridge program is not to specialize, which would the point of a Ph.D. program in the U.S. I like being a generalist. What appeals to me about math is the big picture. Specialization is an alleyway to a forgotten street, and I'm interested in studying the city plans."
At Cambridge, Compeau plans to earn a Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics, which is the equivalent of a master's degree. Although he's unsure where his Cambridge education will take him, Compeau suspects that teaching may be on the horizon. "I've always wanted to teach high school and be involved with people who aren't necessarily math students," he said. "So many people are intimidated by or claim not to like math, whereas the majority of people like music. People can appreciate music without wanting a Ph.D. in it. And that's what interests me -- teaching in a way that shows how interesting math really is."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. # # #
Posted By: Bill Giduz