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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
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Winter 2003
The Littlest Bruin
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Catherine studies
Before class she usually spends time studying or catching up on reading.

Catherine's heightened intellect was evident from her earliest years. When she was 3, a teacher at the Montessori school she attended told her parents, both of whom are professors of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, that she had never seen a child who could read as well as their daughter.

For a number of years, they home-schooled her in collaboration with an independent-study academy that specializes in working with gifted children. Later, when there was little challenge left in the high school curricula she was working through, they enrolled her at Riverside Community College. She was 8, and tested into the highest math level possible at that school, calculus.

Mathematics is Catherine's métier. The symbols, she says, fascinate her.

"I've just always liked symbols. I've never really liked things having to do with English or with writing because it's just words, words, words, and to me it just gets boring after a while. So when you deal with something other than words like numbers and symbols, it's nice. Anything that deals with numbers is basically more appealing to me than anything having to do with writing."

Catherine enjoys learning Japanese, which her father is teaching her, for the same reason; she is enthralled by the symbols of the written language.

She knows that she's smart, but there is no pretense about it. Her intellect is not something that she wears on her sleeve.
"Very natural" is how Ronald Graham, a UC San Diego computer science and engineering professor who mentored Catherine while she was enrolled at Riverside, describes her. "She's not geeky or anything. She's very polite and nice."

Polite and nice are fine with her friends and family. When it comes to mathematics, a better word might be tenacious. She more or less attacks the subject. "She just wants to learn everything," Graham says. "It really is something within her. She has an innate ability to see the patterns in things. It is very highly developed. And mathematics, after all, is the science of patterns. She is able to make connections that are very unusual for someone her age."

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