19-year-old works to complete master’s in computer science

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He says he would not be surprised if he completed PhD by 23

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — At 19 years old, many University of Illinois students are focused on knocking out their general education requirements, establishing a network and keeping on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. However, for 19-year-old Vivek Nair, he is focused on completing his master’s for computer science.

Very often, he is the youngest person in whatever room he is in. It’s in his DNA. He’s been writing code on computers since he was eight years old.

Vivek Nair works on coding and other work. The 19-year-old is working on completing his master’s degree at the University of Illinois.

“He would just bring it around me after work,” Nair said. “So I would just tinker around with it and learn as I go.”

In middle school, Nair operated his own startup called LOOP. He manufactured, designed, and sold tens of thousands of tablets on Amazon at prices much cheaper than iPad’s at the time.

His startup paved the way for his career path to begin. After his venture gained exposure, he became a software engineer working with healthcare technology. By the time he was 18, he already had a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. When he finishes this current semester, he’ll have a master’s.

Nair says he’s no stranger to being the youngest person in the room.

“People look at me, a kid in a graduate level class and say ‘he’s only 19, what does he know about computers or cyber security’?” Nair said. “But I’ve been doing this since I was 13. By now, I’ve gotten used to that dynamic, and it’s helped me get through college.”

For Nair, breezing through college has not been about talent or book-smarts. He said he sticks with a very busy, but organized routine. He said mastering his time management skills has allowed him to take 22-28 credit hours each semester.

Looking to pursue a career in cybersecurity, receiving a PhD at UC Berkeley is his next stop. He said he plans on using as much time as he needs to complete the program, but said it would not be surprising if he had a PhD in computer science before 23.

“I really contribute to national security,” Nair said. “I want to use that cybersecurity expertise to protect people. Everything is online these days, so I feel as though this is a really important and really rewarding field to go into.”

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