Jared Duker Lichtman '18 earns Churchill Scholarship

by Gigi Grigorian | 2/22/18 2:15am

Source: Courtesy of Eli Burakian

This month, Jared Duker Lichtman ’18 was awarded the prestigious Churchill Scholarship to study pure mathematics at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College. He will study at Cambridge for one year while earning his master’s degree in mathematics. Lichtman is one of 16 Churchill scholars to be selected from the U.S. for the 2018-2019 program.

While studying at Cambridge next year, Lichtman said he hopes to explore new topics in mathematics that he has never encountered before.

“Math is becoming more and more interdisciplinary as time progresses, and there are some subfields in math that are very strong in the U.K. that aren’t as well represented in the U.S.,” he said. “This would be a great opportunity to learn more about those areas and get a feeling for what’s out there.”

The Churchill Scholarship is awarded to American students who have excelled in science, math and engineering and are serious about continuing their career in a STEM field, assistant dean of faculty for scholarship advising Jessica Smolin said. The scholarship was established in the 1950s and funds a year of study for a master’s program in a STEM field. According to the Winston Churchill Foundation website, applicants should have significant experience in advanced research and independent work.

“They’re looking for the absolute top future scientific researchers of the U.S.,” Smolin said. “It’s a huge honor to win it, and the competition is extraordinarily fierce.”

After the Churchill Scholarship, Lichtman said he plans to pursue his Ph.D. in mathematics in the U.S. and eventually go into academia.

At Dartmouth, Lichtman began his studies in the math department taking calculus classes. In his freshman spring, he took a probability class with now-retired math professor Carl Pomerance. Lichtman said he approached Pomerance for mentorship, and they have since worked on three projects together.

Pomerance cited Lichtman’s “gumption” as a driving force of his success.

“What distinguishes [Lichtman] is that he’s [used] his natural talents and he has a tremendous amount of energy,” Pomerance said. “He sticks to something when it doesn’t work out. He keeps on trying it, maybe from a different angle.”

The pair began their first project together during Lichtman’s sophomore year. This research, which was later published, explored the accuracy of the Fermat primality test.

“We got some numerical results to show that it’s a very low probability of the test ‘lying’ when you get to bigger numbers,” Pomerance said.

The second project explored the distribution of smooth numbers, which are whole numbers whose prime factors are small.

“That’s a very useful subject in number theory,” Pomerance said. “The theoretical study of those numbers is pretty tough.”

Since their second project built upon their previous research, Lichtman said it “arose naturally from the first [project].”

“[The second project] was a very hard paper,” Pomerance said. “With [Lichtman]’s industriousness and fearlessness, we were able to attack it and solve that problem.”

After these projects, Lichtman began research for his honors thesis in the field of probabilistic number theory under Pomerance’s supervision and submitted the paper for publication this term.

Lichtman also completed his bachelor’s degree in math in fall 2017 and is now pursuing his master’s degree at the College. He will complete this degree in the spring and begin his studies at Cambridge this fall.

Although the Churchill Scholarship is not as commonly known as the Rhodes Scholarship, Smolin said both are “incredibly competitive.” However, the Churchill Scholarship attracts a smaller applicant pool because it is limited to STEM.

She noted that the Churchill Scholarship often selects “students who have previously either applied for or been successful in the Goldwater Scholarship,” which Lichtman earned when he was a junior and is also limited to those interested in pursuing a career in scientific research.

The last Dartmouth student to win the Churchill Scholarship was Patrick Ward ’05 who received it in 2005.

Discussing general advantages of the program, Smolin said that Churchill scholars have the benefit of studying abroad.

“A lot of STEM students are in academic programs that may not allow them to spend significant time abroad,” Smolin said.

She also noted that the Churchill Scholarship allows STEM students to focus on research for a year before continuing their studies, often in Ph.D. programs.