Volume 91, Issue 21

Thursday, October 2, 1997



Child Prodigy gets his masters

By Ian C. Robertson
Gazette Staff

Former child prodigy Erick Wong now has another title after his name.

The 21-year-old student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, has recently completed his master's program in computer science.

Wong was SFU's youngest graduate when he received his honours math undergraduate degree. He will take part in his second university convocation, receiving his masters on Oct. 3. He gained international media attention in 1994 when he graduated after entering the university at age 13. The young student recently defended his thesis, Computations on normal families of primes, which examined how mathematical computations are used to obtain results from sets of problems with a common structure.

Interested in math at an early age, Wong skipped Grades three and four and began teaching his 16-year-old brother grade 11 math. It was then that he and his parents were introduced to Kathy Heinrich, a professor at Simon Fraser who helped him advance through high school math and physics while still in grade eight. Heinrich said she also had to motivate Wong to maintain general proficiency in English and ease his way into university.

Exceptionally high scores in high school math contests and provincial exams in chemistry and physics prompted the dean of science to set up a special scholarship for the 13-year-old, Heinrich said.

Social adjustment was hard at first for Wong who had always been a quiet child. In his first few years at SFU he ate lunch with the teachers instead of fellow students but has now worked his way to the front of the class as a teaching assistant in the computing sciences department. Many of his students find him approachable and easy to understand because he is so close to their age, Heinrich said. His situation has made him well known in many academic math circles around the country, she added.

While he enjoys stimulating young minds that share his passion for computing science and math, Wong has decided to take some time off from his academic conquests, said Marianne Meadahl, a public relations representative for SFU.

Eventually Wong hopes to become a mathematics professor and continue doing graduate work.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997