California boy to graduate UC Davis at age 14, now heading off for PhD

- At 14, Tanishq Abraham of Sacramento is poised to graduate from one of the toughest majors --biomedical engineering with the highest honors -- summa cum laude -- at the University of California at Davis.  

On June 17, Tanishq will be graduating as possibly the youngest biomedical engineer in the country, his mother said, basing that statement on a review of media accounts, which she noted haven't reported anyone younger than him completing that degree. UC Davis confirmed Tanishq's degree from the College of Engineering, but the school does not keep track of age.

"It's very exciting," Tanishq said. "I'm happy that I'm finally done. It's something I've been waiting for a really long time."

Well, a long time for a teen. 

And he's far from done.

He was accepted into UC Davis' PhD program in biomedical engineering with a Dean's Distinguished Graduate Fellowship. He plans to focus his research on artificial cells and how they can be used to cure cancer. After that, president of the United States.

Despite his age, Tanishq said he has a "lot of really good friends" who are in their 20s, and he's gotten involved in the Biomedical Engineering Society Club and the Synthetic Biology Club. Both, he said, were fun and "interesting."

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Professor Ralph C. Aldredge said he has never had a student as young as Tanishq, and has never met anyone quite like him.

"He sat in front all the time, paid attention and didn't take many notes," Aldredge said. "But he always had really good questions."

The questions were so good and complicated, Aldredge had to pull out his graduate notes to address some of the things Tanishq was asking regarding thermodynamics.

"Sure, grades are important to him," Aldredge said. "But he has a really deep curiosity about things. He has a great passion in both the course material and for the research. I think he'll go on to do great things."

Being a child prodigy isn't exactly easy. And being a teen in college isn't without its challenges, either.

Tanishq was bullied in 2nd and 3rd grade because he was a super smart kid. He was intimidated by his college classmates and even some professors. He struggled to keep up with writing projects, papers and exams because of painful hand dystonia. He can't stay out late on campus because he lives at home and his parents would like him home about 11 p.m.

"We don't have the courage to leave him there alone," said his mother, Taji Abraham. "It was a roller coaster ride for him and our family." 

Tanishq has been grabbing headlines for years, starting when he graduated from high school at age 10. He was home-schooled because he got "bored" in regular school, and ended up graduating with a 4.0 GPA. He then earned three degrees in in math and physical science, general science and language studies from American River College in Sacramento. And at UC Davis, Tanishq was initiated into the two oldest academic honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, and presented his undergraduate research in four scientific conferences.

Tanishq's 12-year-old sister, Tiara, is accomplished in her own right. She is also attending college and is an international musician.

His mother, a veterinarian, put her own Ph.D studies on hold to teach him, though his studies were complemented by taking community college classes starting when he was 7 years old. And his father, Bijou, a software engineer and Cornell University graduate who himself earned a perfect SAT score in math, said in a previous interview: "He came out smart."

But sometimes being smart earns you disdain and jealous remarks.

"People think that if you're a smart kid everything comes easily," Taji Abraham said. "That's not always the case. It's true, he understands things. But he stays up to 5 a.m. to finish a paper. He puts in a lot of hard work." 

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