Vivian Xie of P.E.I. just became the youngest graduate of the University of Toronto's faculty of arts and sciences in at least 40 years and is making graduate school plans, but she is in no hurry to get her PhD.
"I'm definitely not in a rush about anything," said Xie.
"You could probably call it the opposite of a rush. I keep my options very, very open."
But Xie, who started elementary school on P.E.I., is not one to wait around either. When the system didn't allow her to skip Grade 4, she convinced her family to move to Halifax, where she could attend a private school. That school placed her in Grade 8.
At the age of 12, she returned to Charlottetown to start her first year at UPEI, with an eye on the Atlantic Veterinary College. But due to her growing interest in immunology, she switched to the University of Toronto and graduated this spring.
"Immunology is one of those subjects in biology that's super broad, and it can pertain to basically every disease that you can think of," she said.
"It's one of, you know, those very-involved-in-everything kind of subjects, so there's definitely something in there for everybody."
U of T started keeping birthday records only about 40 years ago. Xie is the youngest graduate of the faculty over the course of that time. She said that did not have a big impact on her university experience, though.
"I've heard from peers as well, frequently, that they never would have known unless, you know, unless I told them," said Xie. "Nobody actually figures it out on their own."
PhD by 23?
If she continues graduate school at a regular pace, Xie might have her PhD finished by the time she is 23.
It would be easy to assume that graduating from university at 16 would require great drive and focus, but Xie said in fact she is easily distracted.
"I feel like I can never, you know, fully commit to anything," she said. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but both, I suppose."
Xie jokes she might just move to an island and live in a cave for a while.
But for now, her plans are to return to U of T for a master's in applied immunology in the fall, where she is looking forward to post-pandemic in-person classes again.
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