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A Different Dimension

Hill Fellowship winner dives into math classes, independent study, research

By Tara Roberts

Ben Anzis in front of a chalkboard.No doubt about it, Ben Anzis loves math.

As a freshman double major in mathematics and computer science, he’s taking three math classes. In his free time, he reads math texts, pursues independent study and conducts research with assistant professor Stefan Tohaneanu.

Anzis, who is from Marshalltown, Iowa, first connected with the University of Idaho because of math – he had reached beyond the classes offered at his high school, and took a UI Engineering Outreach course in abstract algebra.

“I love all the different types of math. It’s exactly how I think,” Anzis says. “I enjoy pushing myself to learn as much math as I possibly can.”

Anzis has received a Hill Undergraduate Research Fellowship to support his research. That research involves using algebraic geometric techniques to error-correct linear codes, which are the basis of virtually all digital communication.

Anzis says research provides a “new and different dimension” to his collegiate career. In class, professors provide context so students know how to solve a problem. Researchers have to develop that context for themselves.

“In my research, I get to develop concepts and methodology, rather than just using what other people have,” Anzis says.

Research also has given Anzis a chance to connect with his professors. Tohaneanu has been his research partner and mentor, and, together with several other professors, recommends books and helps Anzis decide what topics to pursue in his independent work.

“It makes sure I’m getting the solid foundation that I need,” Anzis says.

Anzis has already co-authored one paper with Tohaneanu, which they have submitted to an academic journal, and they have another in the works.

When Anzis needs a break from his immersion in math, he enjoys his computer science courses, which require different approaches to problems.

“Solving a programming problem requires much different thinking than solving most math problems,” he says.

After Anzis completes his undergraduate degree, he plans to continue on in academia and earn his doctoral degree. He loves the environment the university provides for research and innovation, as well as the opportunity to work across disciplines.