Prodigy makes quick work of pharmacy studiesWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Fred Davis' undergraduate career at Purdue University has flown by, and when he graduates from the six-year pharmaceutical program, he'll be younger than most students are when they enter the university.
Davis will become the youngest student to graduate from Purdue's School of Pharmacy when he receives his diploma in May 2001. He will be featured, along with other extremely young college students, in an upcoming edition of People magazine.
The 15-year-old student from West Lafayette says he finds nothing amazing about his achievements. "Graduating early has never been my ultimate goal," he says. "My goal is to learn everything that it's possible to learn about this discipline in the short span of time I have as an undergraduate."
Davis' older brother and sister graduated from Purdue when they were 18 and 17 years old respectively, a handful of years earlier than the average university student. So with the example of his siblings and encouragement from his father, Steve, who is a former professor of library sciences, and his mother, Kathy, the Davis family mapped out a scholastic plan to put Fred on the academic fast track.
While in elementary school, Davis attended grade school classes for half the school day and high school classes (primarily math classes) for the other half. The same scenario played out during Davis' junior high years. In the mornings he attended his middle school classes and then, at midday, joined high-schoolers for math and science courses that would offer him the advanced learning he craved.
"Being in classrooms with much older students has never intimidated me, because I focused on the work," he says softly. Initially, Davis was fascinated with mathematics, but following an introduction to science courses, he decided pharmacy was the track he wanted to be on.
Davis entered Purdue at the age of 10 and he got on the pharmacy track soon thereafter. But for all his motivation and drive, he could well be a hurry-up-and-wait scenario. Once Davis graduates from the pharmacy program, he won't be allowed to start working at the local drug store immediately. The state of Indiana requires pharmacists to be a minimum of 18 years of age. Davis says he plans to attend graduate school and he may never actually practice pharmacy, opting instead for a career in pharmaceutical research.
Working as a research assistant in pharmaceutical research laboratories for the past three summers has helped Davis make this career decision at such an early age. "I enjoy the research because everything we do is cutting edge," he says.
Carol Post, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry, agreed to sponsor Davis for the Merck Research Scholar Program, a national award granted annually by the Merck Company Foundation to 12 recipients. Davis received the award and went to work for Post doing research.
"Fred is very mature, and I really didn't think to ask his age, not that it would have mattered," she says. "His work in the lab has surpassed my expectations. He has an analytical mind that comprehends situations very quickly, and he works independently."
Post says that when she steered him in the direction of a problem involving the design of human hormone growth factors, Davis took it from there and has been working on his own to come up with a solution.
As for the impact his academic career has had on his personal life, Davis says he's leading a normal teen-age life and he has always hung around friends his own age who never hassled him for starting college two years before they even started high school.
Although Davis has a high grade point average, he's not a straight-A student. But he says he doesn't let that bother him. Davis' one regret is that he "didn't pinpoint what I wanted to do a little earlier."
Davis' younger sister Sara, 10, began taking classes at Purdue this summer.
Sources: Fred Davis, Fdavis2@purdue.edu
Carol Post, (765) 494-4913 or (765) 494-5980; firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick George, advisor, School of Pharmacy, (765) 494-5812
Writer: Jeanine Smith, (765) 496-3133 or (765) 423-2923; email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.orgNOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A publication-quality black-and-white photo of Fred Davis is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+mugshots.