Post Date
Apr 26 2023

## Like a Wish Granted

Authors

Getting recognized and appreciated by the person you’ve always looked up to may sound fulfilling to you, but it was like a 'wish granted' for Atif. Muhammad Atif Zaheer, a first-year MS Mathematics student at LUMS, got his name mentioned in the preface of the book “Analysis I and II” by Terence Tao, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Recognized as one of the greatest living mathematicians today and widely referred to as "The Mozart of Mathematics", Prof. Terence is no lesser than a math deity to Atif.

The story begins with Atif stumbling upon Prof. Terence's online blog and casually recommending that in Analysis 1, a method that proves a series to be convergent while supposing the number to be a rational number can also be generalized for a real number. To clarify, the highlighted part in the picture below originally said “let q>0 be a rational number” instead of “real number”. This expansion of the proof’s scope was possible because rational numbers are essentially a subset of real numbers. As a result, the proof made it to the book and so did Atif’s name.

Atif fondly recalls the first time he saw his name in the book's preface. He was in the library, showing the book to a friend and explaining how significant Prof. Terence Toa’s work is. To emphasize Prof. Terence's stature in the field, Atif shared a fascinating insight:  "There is this trend in mathematics nowadays, that if you're interested in solving a really difficult math problem, you need to get somehow a leading mathematician who works in that area to take an interest in it. Nowadays, it’s said that to solve a big problem, you need to get Terence Tao interested in it". If anyone were to ask Atif about his admiration for Prof. Terence, he would show his phone wallpaper, which displays a picture of the professor.

Atif’s budding interest in Mathematics dates to A-levels when he was asked to drop Composite Math as a subject by one of his teachers because of his matric background. While another teacher instead encouraged him to "go for it" and went out of their way to help him learn difficult concepts, even offering him free home tuition. With his hard work and this teacher’s support, Atif earned an A in Math and then pursued Further Math, scoring a stellar A* in that as well.

This challenging journey encouraged Atif to opt for pure mathematics as his major in college, as he realized his keen interest in the art of problem-solving. He also remembers how mathematical symbols like the integral symbol always fascinated him, leading him to spend hours staring at old math books, wondering what they meant.

Atif’s journey started with mere curiosity, but he is now diving into the higher realms of Algebraic Geometry, Number Theory, and Analytic Number Theory. According to him, mathematics is like "a game you have to navigate through", and with this mindset, he believes one day he'll be able to solve a problem as complex as the Reimann Hypothesis. This problem is so difficult that even a highly qualified mathematician like David Hilbert once said, "If I were to awaken after having slept for 1000 years, my first question would be, has the Riemann hypothesis been solved?”