Princess prodigy | Daily News

Princess prodigy

Eugenie de Silva. Picture by Sarath Peiries

When regular six-year-olds start school to learn their A, B, Cs, Eugenie Carys de Silva had already learned to drive - not just steering the wheel sitting on her father’s lap - but the whole works with gears and brakes! What’s more, she had already published her first book called “The Adventures of Princess Eugenie” by age seven, which included life stories of different trips to Sri Lanka. And of course, she taught herself to play the piano by ear at six years and her first perfected piece was Für Elise by Beethovan!


Eugenie presents her book to President Maithripala Sirisena

“I finished high school at 11 years after completing it in two years, starting at age nine from the University of Missouri High School, USA. I have a specific goal set since I was five years old, which is to be the Defence Secretary of the United States. All my academic pursuits are targeted to achieve this specific goal,” said Eugenie.

Her accelerated learning abilities earned Eugenie her first world record at age 14, as the world’s youngest person to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Analysis with a perfect 4.0 GPA (Summa Cum Laude) in May 2013 from the American Military University. With that, there had been no stopping Eugenie.

Child prodigy Eugenie, born in June 16, 1998 in Manchester, England is the daughter of Sri Lankan born Physics and Chemistry Professor Eugene de Silva. Eugenie moved to the US when she was only five years with her father who is a single parent. He had raised and guided Eugenie all her life and had been a pillar of strength in her academic pursuits. Her father’s guidance, coupled with Eugenie’s passion for defence studies, earned her the second world record, when she was recognized as the world’s youngest to earn a Master’s degree in Intelligence Studies, once again with a 4.0 GPA from the American Military University in May 2014 at 15 years.

Not stopping at one Master’s degree, Eugenie graduated with her second Master’s degree at 16 years, which she started at just age 13 at Harvard University. This time it was Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies with a concentration in Legal Studies. With that she became Harvard’s youngest ever graduate in any field.

“I never got scholarships to complete my studies because of my age. But universities did not discriminate against my age. I passed all their entrance tests to get into Master’s courses,” Eugenie pointed out.

Not only is she the youngest ever Harvard graduate in any field, she is now the youngest person to read for a Ph.D from a university in UK. At age 15, Eugenie began her Ph.D. in Politics at the University of Leicester, England and is also the world’s youngest student in its Department of Politics. Each of these records has been verified. In April 2014, she was also named one of the top 30 Thinkers Under 30 by the Pacific Standard Magazine.

“At home we always had the news running for as long as I can remember. This is how I got interested in this field. My dad never told me that I must pursue his field which is physics and chemistry. My dad raised me in an environment conducive to learning. I don’t feel any pressure,” Eugenie stressed.


Eugenie after receiving her first degree

Now 18 years, Eugenie recently presented her first reference book titled ‘National Security and Counter Intelligence in the Era of Cyber Espionage’ to President Maithripala Sirisena. The foreword was written by Keith B. Alexander, IronNet Cybersecurity, USA and former Director, National Security Agency (NSA), USA.

“The book engages with evolving threats in the intelligence field and brings together experts from around the world. It takes a look into insider threats and cyber espionage, and cyber security,” she said.

Eugenie with her exposure to science, particularly physics due to her father, has won first place each time at oral presentations at science conferences. Her analyses have an interdisciplinary nature, integrating intelligence studies and science in her presentations.

“I have done presentations about how a chemist can be a better intelligence agent. I have focused on denial and deception, and application of scientific methods in the intelligence field. I have also talked about psychology in intelligence,” she said. She is now set to start her third Master’s degree leading to her second Phd in Peace Studies this October at Cambridge, University of Leicester.

Eugenie’s unprecedented feats in the academic field in no way define her as a ‘dull girl’ with ‘all work and no play.’ She enjoys life’s beautiful moments especially with her father with whom she shares a strong bond.

“Every Friday my dad and I go to the movies. We have probably seen all the movies that have come out,” she laughed. Eugenie spends a lot of her time away from academic too.

“Playing soccer is another pastime. I was the assistant coach when I was 13 years for the under 10 boys’ team of the American Youth Soccer Organization. I engage in shooting as a sport and recently took up knife throwing. I also have a brown belt in martial arts,” she smiled.

Eugenie has even hosted a radio show for children called ‘Just kidding around’ at 10 years. The topics had come from Sri Lanka as she had been coming to Sri Lanka every year. “It’s like a second home for me,” she pointed out.

Eugenie has a way of making you forget her age, due to the calm confidence that she exerts. The Daily News asked if age had been a barrier to any of the feats she had accomplished.

“I try not to bring my age to discussions when I’m in the courses. We are all there to study and there’s no point talking about my age. Professionals don’t judge due to age, race or sex. Age has not been a barrier as my professors have accepted me for my abilities, not my age,” she pointed out.

“Sometimes I’m the only female in my courses. So there were instances of sex discrimination. And racism is prevalent everywhere. I overcame these as I focus on my academic pursuits. I don’t allow these to ruin my progress,” she added. Even though Eugenie just turned 18, she seems to have the maturity and composure of an adult. It is easy to see that Eugenie is well on her way to achieving her goals.

Apart from Eugenie’s own gift for learning, her father’s method of teaching had been contributory to her achievements.

“I have developed a model in education which has been recognized and published. It is called ‘Teaching through research.’ We are in the process of spreading it in the US and are working with the US Department of Education,” said Eugenie’s father, Prof. Eugene de Silva.

With Eugenie, he had recognized her talents at a very young age. At one pointed when she could only sit, she had taken all night and perfected tying her shoelace, he said.

“With the method of research, she accelerated in her studies. I never forced her to select a particular field even though I am a Professor of Physics and Chemistry. I could have taken her through that route, but I gave her the choice,” Prof. de Silva pointed out.

He added that even when teaching mathematics, children should be taught its application rather than teaching it in isolation. Children need to understand the reason behind learning. “Mathematics teachers just teach the method without the application. So children hate mathematics. We have to show how, especially science, could be used in daily activities,” he stressed.

Eugenie had engaged in projects given by her father. “I gave her seeds and told her to plant. She researched and applied how plants grow and what is needed for their growth. She learned through application,” Prof. de Silva pointed out.

“My model assists teachers to combine application in their teaching. It is for all disciplines. All fields are interdisciplinary as each field needs the knowledge of the other field to a certain extent. For example, if a scientist lacks communication skills, he or she will fail in communicating his or her findings,” he added.

He also stressed that Sri Lanka needs initiators instead of followers. “Our Sri Lankan students get 4 As but they don’t get Nobel prizes. This is because there is a disconnection. They are only good followers,” the professor pointed out.

Eugenie is the living example of Prof. de Silva’s model. With guidance to be a free-thinker, it is not impossible to assume that Eugenie would keep to her tracks. “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste” says the poem ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann and this is Eugenie’s philosophy to life.


Academic records

Age 14: World’s youngest to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Analysis with a 4.0 GPA

Age 15: World’s youngest to earn a Master’s degree in Intelligence Studies with a 4.0 GPA

Age 16: Harvard’s youngest graduate in any field especially with Master’s

Age 15: World’s youngest to read for a Ph.D. in Politics and youngest to read for a Ph.D from a university in UK

Named one of the Top 30 Thinkers Under 30 by the Pacific Standard Magazine

Alumni Education Award - American Military University, 2015

Youngest Luce Leader 2015 - James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation 


 

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