Equal to none
Child prodigy March Boedihardjo has been making headlines everywhere since he enrolled in Hong Kong Baptist University aged nine back in 2007. He was accepted after earning two As in mathematics and further mathematics in the British A-level examinations, generally taken at 18 years old, and eight English GCSEs, normally taken at 16.
Now 13, March did not disappoint. He has just completed both a bachelor's and master's degree in mathematics within four years and become the youngest university graduate in Hong Kong.
According to the university's original plan, the curriculum they tailored for him spans five years, but March started his master's thesis research early and has complied with all the requirements a year ahead of schedule.
He managed to get straight As in five of the seven courses, and A- in the other two. He will receive his graduation certificate in November.
Professor Franklin Luk Tai-cheung, acting president of Baptist University, said: 'It proves that we made the right decision to admit him to the university.'
March says he owes his success to his teachers' and classmates' support, particularly the patient guidance of his academic mentor Professor Hermann Brunner - a top mathematician who graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
'Professor Brunner never answered my questions,' March says. 'He liked to leave me alone to mull it over until I finally solved the equations. This way of teaching enhanced my independence.'
March's father, Tony Boedihardjo, says his son, who was born in Hong Kong and is of Chinese-Indonesian descent, initially found adjusting to college life in the city difficult after completing his secondary education in England. The family had moved there in 2005, when March's older brother won a place at Oxford University, aged 14.
'March took time to adapt to Hong Kong's education system, but once he became familiar with it, his progress picked up speed,' he says.
Many had expected the teenage genius to find it hard to cope with university life. Yet March did well, socialising with students at least five years older than him. He even joined the drama club.
'I had a fruitful and happy university life at HKBU,' March says. 'Although I encountered many difficulties and challenges in my studies and research, I believed that with perseverance, the problems would ultimately be solved.
'I do not think I have lost anything [by attending university at such a young age] because I am pursuing my dreams.'
His father praised his son's quiet determination. 'The arrogant will surely fail,' he says. 'When March feels like he's fallen into a deep ravine, he will find a way to pick himself up.'
March has now left the city for Texas A&M University in the United States. It boasts a highly respected mathematics departments. He will be staying there as a visiting scholar, continuing his research in mathematics with a focus on functional analysis, as well as pursuing a PhD.
March's success has encouraged Luk to continue admitting intellectually gifted children to study at the university.
'As a progressive tertiary education institution, [Baptist University believes] that the development of a student is always the top priority,' Luk says.