USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Role Models in Science & Engineering Achievement: Alia Sabor

Alia Sabor — Materials scientist

Modern-day child prodigy who earned her Ph.D. at age 17, and became the youngest college professor in history in 2008.

No doubt, materials scientist Alia Sabur has been ahead of the “learning curve” for most of her young life.  She was born in New York City in 1989 and started talking and reading when she was just 8 months old. She finished elementary school at age 5, and made the jump to college when she was just 10.

By age 14, Alia had earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree in applied mathematics (summa cum laude) from New York’s Stony Brook University, becoming the youngest female in U.S. history to do so. She continued her education  at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.  Soon after, Alia (who is of Iranian descent) attracted worldwide attention when she — just three days short of her 19th birthday in 2008 — was appointed as a full-time faculty professor in the Department of Advanced Technology Fusion at Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea.

This distinction made her the youngest college professor in history, beating the previous world record held since 1717 by Scottish mathematician Colin Maclaurin who had studied under physicist Sir Isaac Newton.  Alia, who specializes in nanotechnology, is by no means a one-dimensional “nerd”: She holds a Black Belt in tae kwon do, is a concert-level clarinet player, and enjoys rocking out to the music of such artists as U2, Smash Mouth and Lang Lang.

In Her Own Words:  Commenting on the origins of her remarkable academic achievements, Alia says with a sense of shyness: “My parents and I believe it is a gift from God…a combination of gift and environment.  Also, since childhood, I’ve always been curious about how things work.  What is science really?  It’s how stuff works.”

For more exciting role models in science and engineering, visit the USA Science & Engineering Festival www.usasciencefestival.org

 

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