Page 3 Profile: Eugenie de Silva, 15 Year-Old PHD Student


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The Independent Online

‘Not your average nerd’

So reads Ms de Silva’s Twitter biography. At just 15, the American is to become the youngest-ever PhD student, choosing to complete her studies at Leicester University.

So she has already been to uni?

Yes. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts at 14 and an MA at 15, both from the American Military University and both with the highest attainable grade.

What is she studying now?

As a politics student, her doctorate will focus on “denial and deception in the Second World War”. Mark Phythian, Leicester University’s head of politics, will supervise de Silva and says he has “no doubt about her ability”.

But she’s too young for the  big, wild world of Leicester!

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, she will complete her PhD remotely and won’t have to travel far from home in Tennessee. She will be expected to visit Leicester for some face-to-face sessions and exams during her course. Jackie Dunne, the university’s dean of distance education, said such set-ups were “an increasingly popular option”.

And in her downtime?

Downtime? Pah! While studying for a Master’s degree in intelligence studies, she co-authored a textbook on multidisciplinary research. Far from being a workaholic, though, Prof Phythian says she is “very well adjusted and engaging”.

Her parents must be proud…

Her father, Prof Eugene de Silva, moved from Sri Lanka to Britain and then to the US, where he now teaches physics and chemistry. Asked about coping with pressure at such a young age, Eugenie said she had a “quite normal childhood”.