How does one end up among the youngest master’s degree holders? Are they born into academics, or made by fellow geniuses? Most of us trudge into our bachelor’s degrees when we are almost hitting 40 -ish. We are left in awe as we look into their lives and the journeys these impressive people took to become the youngest master’s degree holders.

Juliet Beni, born in 1993
Beni, is a daughter to University of California Riverside’s (UCR) engineering professors Gerardo Beni and Susan Hackwood. She first attended a Montessori preschool and was pulled out to be home schooled by her engineer professor father. She was being home schooled with her sister Catherine Beni, who aged just 20, graduated from California institute of technology with PhD in 2011.

Juliet was a college senior at 15 and at 19 she received her PhD in psychology from the university of California riverside (UCR). Juliet, who works as an instructor of a large health psychology class at UCR, says that she often gets offhand comments about how she looks. As a reply, she does not mind them, so long as she remains a good resource and a great teacher. Even though she already has a PhD, she has future plans to be a doctor – yes a real medical doctor. She has dreamed of joining the profession ever since she was a child.

When asked about how she managed to get to the impressive heights that she has achieved while so young, the professor said that her driving strengths include self discipline, problem solving skills and her dedication. Her doctorate was seemingly easy to come by – a feat that she attributes to hard work. Juliet said that “she knew how to study and learn”.

Sho Yano, born 1990
The father of Sho Yano, Katsura, came originally from Japan, while his mother, Kyung, hailed from South Korea. By the time he was two, Sho already knew how to read. Even better, he knew how to write at the time when most of his age- mates were learning to speak – at age 3. By the age of 5, he had wrapped his mind around the concept of music. In fact, he could compose songs.

Due to the fact that he was clearly a child prodigy, Sho was admitted in the Mirman School for Gifted Children in Los Angeles and also spent a few years being home schooled by his mother. At age 8, he sat for an SAT and scored 1500 out of the possible 1600 points, which helped him in the admission to Loyola University. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Loyola University aged just 12, finishing in three years and in summa cum laude.

Some institutions refused to admit Sho Yano into their study programmes, citing the fact that he was too young and that too much studies might hinder his development as a young adult. However, his University made some accommodations because of his age, unlike most students who begin their PhD training after their second year. Yano began his doctorate after first year.

At this rate, he was just 18 when he began his second year of studies towards his M.D., which included interacting with and examining patients. After that, he enrolled for the preparations for his residency in paediatric neurology, in which he became interested in while doing rotation at Larabida children’s hospital in Chicago. He holds a world record as the youngest person ever to earn an M.D degree in University of Chicago.

Erik Demaine, born 1981
Demaine is the son to an artist and sculptor called Martin L. Demaine, and Judy Anderson, from Halifax. In his infancy, his parents divorced. This enabled him to travel with his father to North America, for a period of five years. His father home- schooled him until he qualified for college.

Young Eric became very interested in computer games, then computer programming. At age 7, he wrote his first computer program, which was a text based game which enabled people to choose their own adventure. When his ambitions began to outpace his knowledge, he was enrolled in math and computer science classes at Dalhousie University in their hometown in Nova Scotia. Both son and dad attended class.

Although Erik was only twelve years old, he aced his courses and recalls that his fellow students were very understanding, and treated him normally, as they would treat anyone else. He earned his bachelor’s degree at 14, and then he proceeded to Waterloo for his master’s degree in math in (1996). This was soon followed by a Ph.D. (2001).

He joined the MIT faculty as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science that same year. At age 20, he was the youngest professor ever hired by the renowned university.

Akshay Venkatesh, born 1981.
Born in 1981 in New Delhi India, Akshay grew up in Perth, Western Australia, was admitted in Scotch College, which is a boys’ school. During his time there, he participated in mathematical Olympiad programs, which was aimed at gifted and talented students. It was in this programme that Akshay made some important appearances which demonstrated his prowess.

At 13 years old, Akshay completed his secondary education and became the youngest student ever to attend the University of Western Australia. In 1997, aged just 16, Akshay received a First Class Honors degree in Pure Mathematics. He was the youngest student to achieve such success and also received the J.A. Woods Memorial Prize, which is given to the leading student of a graduating year group. Then he enrolled to Princeton for his PhD he completed his degree in 2002.

Akshay has held a variety of positions at various centers of learning, notably MIT, the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science in New York and his current position as a professor of mathematics at Stanford University.

Balamurali Ambati, Born 1977.
Ambati was born to Dr Rao Ambati and his wife, a linguist who specialized in Tamil. He was born and spent his years as an infant in the Vellore region of India. Ambati emigrated to the United States when Ambati was only three years old. He was a sharp as a child, and learnt reading and writing very early – so early that he knew how to Calculus when he was 4. He went on with this unwavering pace until he finished high school at 11 and went to medical school immediately after.By the age of 17, he had finished his medical studies and was a doctor – breaking the world record and becoming the youngest medical doctor in the world. This was after he cleared his studies in New York University at just 13 years old.

He started a career from then, practicing ophthalmology and teaching as an associate professor. He has greater ambitions still, and keeps on leading the pace of academia in his field.

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