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Student, 19, beginning PhD work By Tessa Ferguson April 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

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He’s only 19 years old, but it might not be long before Zach Jibben is called “doctor.” The ASU senior is preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and he’s already finishing his first semester of doctoral courses in aerospace engineering. At this point, he’s on track to earn his Ph.D. by the ripe age of 22. Impressive for a 19-year-old, but those who know Jibben understand the work ethic and intelligence that makes him extraordinary.

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Jibben was homeschooled and got ahead by attending college courses when he was just 16. His parents served as his teachers and encouraged his love of science. Jibben’s father, Jeffrey Jibben, said he saw an interest in his son at a remarkably young age.

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“Zach’s first interest in science was really when he was a toddler,” he said. “We began looking through the telescope together. He learned the moons, planets and the solar system and knew what was going on pretty well for someone who was four.” Before reaching ASU, Zach Jibben attended three universities in his home state of Minnesota.

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“I’ve really liked having a well-rounded education through that,” he said. “Each university was good for different reasons.” As Jibben tested each university in the style of Goldilocks, he found that none had exactly the http://www.statepress.com/2011/04/13/student-19-beginning-phd-work/

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Student, 19, beginning PhD work | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University

10/11/11 5:53 PM

right program he wanted to study, until he found his “just right” place at ASU. “I came to ASU because I want to do aerospace engineering, and Minnesota doesn’t really have much stuff industry and companies wise,” he said. “Arizona does.” Although Jibben is younger than many of his classmates, he has been able to relate to people well because of his maturity, his father said. Jibben said he was scared about going into a large university setting but soon realized, “there were a lot of people who were in the same boat.” His friend Bryan Rock, a physics junior, said he didn’t know Jibben was younger when they first met last September. “I didn’t know right away, but as soon as I started talking to him he told me he was 19,” he said. “I definitely think he deserves what he’s worked for, he’s a very hard worker.” Despite the variety of schools he has attended, Jibben said his favorite professor is his current quantum physics professor Richard Lebed. Lebed has taught Jibben for two semesters and said that along with being a “prodigy,” Jibben makes time for socialization with his peers. “He’s a friendly, outgoing kid,” he said. “He’s a social person. I’ll find him chatting up other people before class starts.” Jibben is not solely interested in science and logic, as some might assume. He said he enjoys hiking and photography, and he has a strong Christian background. “He is also somebody who really cares about relationships,” his father said. “He has good friends and cares about people. It’s not just all intellectual.” Jibben’s schedule is packed with classes, labs and work. He will be graduating with 140 credits, 20 more than required, and began his graduate studies because, “I had open space in my schedule.”

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His busiest day of the week is Thursday, he said, when classes begin at 6:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., leaving him very little down time. “I try to eat somewhere in between there,” he said of the time between classes and his tutoring job at the Noble Library. He is also a member of the Society of Physics Students at ASU. Jibben’s grade point average last semester was a 4.0 and he said that he had two A+ grades in his physics classes. For a student who seems to excel at everything, Jibben said one particular subject just didn’t click. “Spanish was one of those things that don’t go in,” he said while shaking his head. “Electrodynamics, no problem.” As his time as a university student will come to a close in a few short years, Jibben is looking forward to a career in engineering. His atypical college experience has not affected him negatively; in fact he is eager to finish as early as possible. “I want to get into it as fast as I can. I really like this stuff, so the earlier the better,” he said. Jibben is looking into companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Orbital, where he wants to design aircrafts. Lebed sees a wealth of opportunities for his student in the future. “I can easily see him working on the next generation of planes or planes that can make it into space,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he was the lead researcher on that kind of work.” Jibben’s father said he is proud of his son’s accomplishments up to this point and expects him to achieve even more.

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Student, 19, beginning PhD work | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University

10/11/11 5:53 PM

“He’s heading in the right direction,” he said. Reach the reporter at tafergu1@asu.edu Categories: Featured News Newsletter Student Life Tags: aerospace engineering ASU Zach Jibben

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Student, 19, beginning PhD work | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University  

The ASU senior is preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and he’s already finishing his first semester of doctoral cours...

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