The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ainan visits Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Yesterday, Ainan, seven, was invited by Professor Freddy Boey, to visit the Material Sciences Lab of NTU (Nanyang Technological University), Singapore.

This was Ainan's first trip to a real lab and it gave him an insight into how they conduct their work. As you may know, Material Sciences have a strong relationship to Chemistry and are, in fact, one of Ainan's areas of interest.

Ainan was greeted with warmth from the moment we stepped onto the premises. One of the senior staff said: "I recognize you from the paper!" held out his hand and said: "Do come this way..." Then he led us through the maze of the N4 Material Sciences Lab to Professor Boey's Lab.

The Lab tour took in several - but not all - of the facilities. Ainan was first shown a computer presentation of the work of NTU in the Material Sciences, showing the diversity of their interests. He was asked several questions about what he saw and commented appropriately.

To NTU staff entering the room as Professor Boey spoke, he introduced Ainan, at one point: "Our future Post Doc!". Their curious eyes appraised his elfin, diminutive form with a welcoming smile.

Professor Boey presented Ainan with a welcoming gift from the lab: a silicon wafer, on which integrated circuits would normally have been etched, but on which the name of the lab, the University and its slogan had been etched, that very morning. Ainan accepted this with quiet curiosity - as he did the other gifts that came in a bag - such as customized pens and that essential item for those living in sweltering Singapore: a water bottle with the Material Sciences department inscribed on it. He is going to look quite the student when he returns to his primary school bearing these customized gifts.

Ainan was shown the Biomaterials lab, where biocompatible materials are made. One that struck him as particularly interesting was an image of carbon nanotubes that had been shaped into the logo of NTU. That surprised him. When asked later why, he said: "Because I thought they would be difficult to shape and cut." He was told that they had a method for doing so.

There he was introduced to biocompatible stents and other biomedical devices and shown revolutionary materials for use in replacing blood vessels.

He was shown a Clean Room where delicate work on materials is done. Then he was introduced to an Electron microscope, which he got the chance to use himself. He rather enjoyed scanning a gold coated ant, at 1 micrometre resolution - and viewing the stomata of a leaf, as giant perforations on the screen in front of him.

He was shown the gold thin-film deposition and was asked for a coin, which was promptly coated in gold.

He particularly liked it when Associate Professor Tim White, a mineralogist, showed him the structures he had in his office. Ainan has been interested in structure since he was about three years old and this was a chance to see many interesting crystalline structures in person. His favourite? A yellow model of an orthorhombic crystal.

Once home, I asked him how he rated the day out of 10: "100,000" he said. What had been his favourite part: "The electron microscope."

It was a lovely introduction for him, to the reality of the scientific world - at the kind invitation of Professor Boey. Thanks very much to all the staff at NTU who made us feel welcome and had prepared things for him to see.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:28 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Hooray!!!!

I'm so VERY happy for Ainan!

Three cheers!!

What a delightful day!

I'm at a loss for words.



11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful opportunity for Ainan! A mentor from the University would be very good for him.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Pam for celebrating with us, Ainan's first steps forward into the scientific world.

Best wishes to you.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Kamisah said...

oh wow! that's so cool!

ps: please say hello to syahidah for me. i miss her so much. we've been friends since 6. can't wait to meet her again. :)


3:58 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Kamisah...I have passed your message onto Syahidah.

She has one for you...a rather cryptic one if you ask me: "Don't bring the chewing gum." I hope you know what it means...because I don't.

Best wishes to you.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Kamisah said...

thanks much!!

LOL! i know exactly what she means!!

and hey, ainan is in the straits times today! smart boy!

11:36 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is good that you know Kamisah...she hasn't let me in on the joke.

Ah well...

Yes, Ainan was mentioned again...

Best wishes

12:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

As for a is funny you should say that...more in a post!

Best wishes

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like a really cool tour. Reminds me of the particle accelerator tour I took recently. I bet you had a lot of fun. :) Cool stuff!

- Kathy

12:33 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Particle accelerator? Wow! Ainan would be impressed.

He enjoyed it tremendously...cheers.

1:48 PM  

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