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Northwest University welcomes 19-year-old PhD student

By Liu Wei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-09-01 15:06

Word spread fast when the Department of Geology at Northwest University in Xi'an, China's Shaanxi province, welcomed its youngest PhD candidate on campus Tuesday.

Fan Yan, 19, from Datong, North China's Shanxi province, has been living in the academic fast lane since he was a child.

His mother said Fan was quite smart, as he could always recite a new Chinese poem quite fast. She started teaching him when he was 3, using primary school textbooks.

When Fan was five, his parents asked him to try studying at the third grade level as he started school.

"It was hard at the beginning, but I adjusted to it, then I went along," Fan said.

He said due to his age he didn't exhibit good academic performance until his third year in middle school, when he found a study method just right for him. He has been an excellent student since then.

"I was always the best student, which gave me more motivation to keep studying, even in class breaks," Fan said.

He took his first college entrance examination at age of 14, four years earlier than usual but didn't stand out. After a year, he was successfully admitted to the Department of Geology at Northwest University in 2013 on his second try.

He maintained excellent grades at college. He received a recommendation for the opportunity to do postgraduate study with no application needed. He had a discussion with his father, deciding to pursue a doctoral degree right after finishing his undergraduate studies.

He succeeded and became one of only five people who started a doctoral degree as an undergraduate in the Geology Department.

His parents have had a big influence on him and offered him help whenever he needed it.

Fan admitted he never had to sign up for any tutorial classes outside the school. "My mom put lots of effort in my study until I graduated from high school," he said.

But his interest in geology is heavily influenced by his father. His father, with an academic background in coal mining, suggested geology to him when he described the major as "a course that you work with nature", raising his son's huge curiosity in the field.

While Fan said he wasn't sure he could make it to proceed to a doctoral degree, his dad said, "There's nothing to be worry about!" to reassure him.

Fan is not too ambitious about the future.

"I just want to accomplish something by making a big effort in studying and researching in my major," he said.

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