A serious student, '07 revels in geekdom

by Phil Salinger | 11/19/04 6:00am

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles profiling students who at first glance embody various Dartmouth stereotypes. In this piece, The Dartmouth examines the campus intellectual.

At Dartmouth, the word "geek" enjoys a much more positive connotation than it did in middle school.

Dan Peebles '07 plans to be a computer science major. He also studies two languages, is a member of the Italian club and is a published science photographer.

Finding time to talk with Peebles was especially difficult, as an average day in his Dartmouth life is action-packed with various intellectual commitments.

Every morning, Peebles has Japanese drill at 7:45, then Japanese class, then Spanish class. In the afternoon, he has computer science class at 1:45 and Spanish drill at 5:10. He was unavailable to meet between his morning classes and computer science class because he was working on a problem set. He was also unavailable after Spanish drill because he was going to a movie with the Italian club.

Peebles, however, admits he does not devote much time to academics, a truth his friends second.

"He procrastinates a lot. He generally doesn't worry about grades. He worries about learning," said Peebles' roommate Jesse Shaw '07.

Peebles said that he works about five hours on his computer science problem set due every Tuesday, and that is about all the schoolwork he does each week.

A packed repertoire of intellectual activities, however, does not make a geek, especially at Dartmouth. Many non-geeks have similarly intense schedules. Also, a student who doesn't spend much time on his schoolwork can still be a geek.

A geek, therefore, is defined by what he does when he isn't doing work.

Photography is one of Peebles' favorite hobbies, and the European science magazine Focus Germany is publishing one of his photographs soon.

"When I have free time and it's a pretty day, I just go out and take photographs," Peebles said.

Watching movies is another of Peebles' hobbies. "Kill Bill" and "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso," a movie he saw with the Italian club, are among his favorite movies, he said.

According to Shaw, a typical Friday or Saturday night for Peebles includes "hanging out with some friends, watching a movie."

Peebles also finds learning languages and computer science enjoyable.

"I just know lots of languages and find them fascinating and enjoy the challenge. I like computer science because it's full of problem solving and I enjoy math," he said.

Peebles has two pumpkins and a blender in his dorm room; he has no posters or wall decorations of any kind. He also makes sure that his room only has matching colors, according to Shaw.

"He bought a lamp from Wal-Mart and then gave it away because it didn't match," Shaw said.

Is Dan Peebles a geek? Any answer to this question is certainly subjective.

He does not wear thick glasses and he does not talk like Steve Urkel. He does prefer photography to frat-hopping and computers to sports, and such atypical hobbies are arguably what make a geek a geek.

According to Shaw, if you think Peebles is a geek, "you're just too stupid to understand him."

At the end of the day, Peebles doesn't really care about the word "geek." He has found his niche at Dartmouth and he loves it. Whether his niche is that of a geek is of little consequence to him.

Having atypical interests at the College, multiple students confirmed, is typical, and, therefore, the term "geek" is a little fuzzy. If geek means loser, then Dan Peebles is not a geek. If it means unusual in a quirky intellectual sort of way, then he is.

But then again, maybe all Dartmouth students are.