Wed, Feb 11, 2009
The New Straits Times
World's youngest professor ever

By June Ramlijune

SHE could already read when she was 8 months old. She was accepted into the State University of New York at Stony Brook when she was 10 years old, and at 14, she received a BSc in Applied Mathematics, the youngest female graduate in United States history.
She received her MSc from Drexel University in Philadelphia at 17, and at 18, a PhD in Material Science from Drexel.

At the same age, the now 20-year-old Alia Sabur broke a record that had stood for nearly 300 years when she was appointed Professor of Nanotechnology at SUNY Stony Brook.

Previously, the youngest person ever to be appointed professor was Colin Maclaurin, a friend of Sir Isaac Newton, who was 19 years and 7 months old when he was appointed Professor of Mathematics in 1717.

Alia is now a full-time professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea.

But Alia is not only a brilliant academic, she is a gifted clarinetist. When she was 11 years old, she performed Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with pianist Ling Lang, and as a teenager, she performed with rock band, Smash Mouth.

On Saturday, this unique young woman will give a talk on effective studying and maximising one's potential at the Corus Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. She takes our questions first.

Q: What is your favourite subject and why?

A: I love Mathematics and Physics. It's interesting to see how things work, and with Physics, I'm always fascinated why something is this way and not that.

Q: What is your secret to success?

A: There's no secret in that sense. During my talk, I will try and share what helped me to gain success, but there is no magic formula. Just do whatever you do to the best of your ability. If you're weak, you just have to work harder and try studying more.

Q: How do you deal with stress?

A: I've never had stress because I was doing what I wanted to do. I love learning new things and I make sure I excel in everything I do. In fact, I don't have much stress because I sleep a lot and put aside some time to relax.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: I'd like to be able to do everything. Right now, I'm writing a book about myself that will be out some time next year. I also want to pursue my music career and perform more classical concerts. Besides that, I want to teach as a professor in other countries. My stint at the Konkuk University is just about over and I'll be returning to the States soon. I like to have a lot of things going on. It keeps me going.

Q: Here you are, a woman and the youngest professor in the world. But there are women in places like Africa and the Middle East who can't get a decent education. What are your thoughts on this?

A: I think it's terrible and unfair for women to be in this situation. I have never understood why things have been that way for some women. I would like to travel to those parts of the world and maybe help them understand why education is important for women.

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