During his first year at Hobart and William Smith, math major Aaron Ackbarali ’16 began what would develop into his Honors thesis and what has taken him to the next step of his education. This fall, Ackbarali will continue his research in algebraic topology as a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University.
One of the top 25 mathematics graduate programs according to U.S. News & World Report — and top five graduate programs in Ackbarali’s concentration — Stony Brook is home to some of the world’s best mathematicians. The school boasts a long history of Fields Medal winners, the equivalent of Nobel Prize laureates of mathematics.
As a first year, Ackbarali began studying algebraic topology, a branch of mathematics that uses abstract algebra to analyze and understand geometric spaces and objects. Combining this study with his interests in fractals and analytic number theory, he began working with Associate Professor of Mathematics Jonathan Forde to research the Atiyah-Singer index theorem, which operates at the intersection of geometry, algebra and physics, and has significant implications for those disciplines.
In his Honors thesis, a portion of which he presented at the 2016 Senior Symposium, Ackbarali sought to explore how Atiyah-Singer index theorem might be developed and adapted to address fractals.
“It’s the beauty of the language and the abstract nature that speaks to me. Math can be infinite and infinitesimal; it can be every color and every sound,” says Ackbarali, who adds that he has been drawn to mathematics for as long as he can remember.
At HWS, he explains, the academic freedom on campus, “to pursue anything I wanted,” was as important as the passion he has for mathematics. The Colleges offered “an environment I could think in. Whether I needed quiet space or clustered collaboration, it was all accessible.”