Oak Harbor student to study under Hawking
July 3, 2008 · Updated 6:01 PM
"A former Oak Harbor student will soon be walking the same hallways Sir Isaac Newton once called home. And he'll be pondering mathematical theories Newton never even dreamt of.Justin Stambaugh, a 1996 graduate of Oak Harbor High School, was recently accepted by the prestigious Cambridge University in England to enter its post-graduate program in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. The department was once headed by Newton and is now led by renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.Stambaugh said he first picked up an interest in science and math as a high school sophomore when teachers encouraged him to go beyond his first-year chemistry class. He said after Oak Harbor physics teacher Charles Moser gave him an assignment on the origin of the universe, he was hooked for good.I was very interested in that, he said this week as he wrapped up undergraduate classes at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Stambaugh was so interested he got a job at the library where he could be closer to books on the subject, and he convinced his parents to give him a telescope and Astronomy Magazine subscription for Christmas.But it takes more than an interest to get into Cambridge, a university that's been home to the scientific and mathematical elite since the 13th century. Only about 15 percent of the college's 4,500 graduate students come from outside the British Isles and Europe. Only about one-third of all applicants are accepted. According to its own brochure, Cambridge is a school where being an honors student is a prerequisite.Stambaugh qualifies.He will graduate from Central next month with three majors in physics, math and chemistry, and has maintained a 3.9 grade point average for the past two and a half years. When he took the Graduate Records Exam, a test required for graduation, he scored a perfect 800 on the math portion.The one-year advanced mathematics program at Cambridge is equivalent to a master's degree here in the states.It usually takes two years but they're going to push it through in one, said Stambaugh calmly, as if that kind of math makes perfect sense. He's equally comfortable talking about things such as twistors, quantum mechanics and the vibrational properties of a loaded string - the trappings of theoretical physics. The course of study deals with everything in the universe, he said, including gravity, electricity, magnetism and light. It covers the stuff that holds atom nuclei together to black holes in space. Bringing the various physical theories together so that they mesh is what Stambaugh calls the Holy Grail of physics right now.It's what everyone is looking for, he said.Theoretical thinkers are in demand these days, from industries ranging from software manufacturers such as Microsoft to Wall Street economics firms, said Stambaugh. He hopes to eventually teach or work in research as a career.Stambaugh's year at Cambridge will likely be followed by three to four more years at the University of Maryland working on his doctorate. The university has helped Stambaugh get government loans for his studies in England, but he said he's still a little short of the $26,000 Cambridge requires.To help raise funds, Stambaugh plans to return to Oak Harbor in mid June and offer tutoring or teaching assistance to all grade levels through the summer. Anyone interested in using his services or in helping him reach his goal can reach him at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org."