vivian xie

A 16-year-old just graduated from U of T and she's a complete inspiration

Ah, to be 16 again: Hanging around the mall with friends, spending the summer between grades 10 and 11 perhaps with a first part-time job, maybe even ditching class in those grades and hoping your parents wouldn't be home to pick up the automated phone call from your high school.

But while most 16-year-olds are enjoying the tail end of a fairly carefree (though pandemic-y) adolescence before adulthood, Vivian (Qiao) Xie has been busy finishing up her undergraduate degree at U of T, making her the youngest student at the institution's Faculty of Arts & Science, Scarborough or Mississauga campuses to do so.

As if that achievement weren't exceptional enough, the diligent teen is on track to complete her phD by 22, which would be perfectly in line with the rest of her school career, during which she skipped multiple grades in her earlier years before embarking on her journey to her bachelor's in biology and cell and molecular biology (a double major).

Xie, born and raised in Shanghai and then P.E.I., told the university in an interview this week that her grandmother "pavlov-ed" her into associating learning with fun, which she attributes much of her success to.

She also said that her love of learning and curiosity in general extends beyond just the academic world, and has led to forays in music, art, volunteer teaching and numerous other hobbies that she fits in betwen her studies, which have been by her own volition, and not her family's.

"If anything, my mother would have probably lost less hair and had fewer headaches if it wasn't for my shenanigans," she told U of T News of her skipping so many grades as a child.

Her peers, though of course impressed by the youngster, added that her age and "this rather unusual fact about her" aren't all that make her remarkable and interesting, saying that "if she didn’t tell us her age, I don’t think any of us would have known."

While she looks into starting her own business importing pet products to Canada and brushing up on her Mandarin, Xi will be going on to start her master's in applied immunology in fall 2021, continuing her studies here in Toronto and putting the rest of us to shame.

Lead photo by

U of T News


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