By Hoda Fakhari
On May 9, Tanishq Abraham was inducted into the Kappa of California chapter at the University of California–Davis in the presence of national Secretary and CEO Frederick Lawrence, who presented the inductees with their pins in celebration of the chapter's 50th anniversary. At 14 years old, Abraham is the youngest known Phi Beta Kappa member.
Abraham completed high school at the age of 10 and then went on to graduate with three associate’s degrees from American River College before transferring to UC Davis as a junior at just 12 years old.
His accomplishments have earned him nationwide recognition over the years. Abraham appeared in the Lifetime reality competition show Child Genius, was interviewed by Conan O’Brian, became the youngest presenter at a NASA conference, spoke at a TEDx event, and received two congratulatory letters from President Barack Obama for his achievements.
A couple of weeks after his ΦBK induction, Abraham became the youngest engineer to graduate from UC Davis, earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.
“As I love all things science, it was hard for me to choose a pure engineering or a medical field,” said Abraham, a UC Davis Honors Scholar. “I chose biomedical engineering so that I can combine and work on both these diverse fields.”
Despite his young age, Abraham has not had any trouble succeeding as a college student. His professors have taken note of his maturity and willingness to dive into what the university has to offer. During his time at UC Davis, he was invited to the UC Systemwide Biomedical Engineering Symposium, where he met many prominent researchers in his field. He also presented his research at the 2017 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
Apart from science, Abraham also has interests in movies, travel, and photography, among others. He is very active on Twitter @iScienceLuvr, where he stays up-to-date on current events.
Abraham believes that the future depends on scientists, but he likes to see scientists and liberal arts professionals working together. “Having both liberal arts and sciences education, it helps us be a rounded and well-informed individual,” he said.
“It was surprising to see I was the only engineering student,” said Abraham about the ΦBK ceremony at UC Davis. “Most engineers do not have a breadth of liberal arts needed for induction, but my well-rounded education at the community college where I took many courses in liberal arts subjects helped me to become a member.”
Abraham describes ΦBK’s core values of curiosity and creativity as his inborn traits. The love of learning has undoubtedly been the guide of his life, and he advises others to adopt the same outlook. “My advice is [that] learning never stops; it’s lifelong. Learning is not confined to the four walls of a lecture room in a college. We can learn from many resources, especially from other people’s life experiences. But it is very important to have an education.”
Abraham will begin graduate studies for his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at UC Davis in the fall. He plans on becoming a physician, medical researcher, and eventually president of the United States, joining a legacy of influential ΦBK members.
“I am, of course, proud to be the youngest member of the oldest academic honor society, which has 17 U.S. Presidents, 40 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and 140 Nobel Laureates,” said Abraham. “Maybe in another 25 years, ΦBK will have 18 U.S. Presidents and 141 Nobel laureates!”
Above: Tanishq Abraham with his mom Taji Abraham, sister Tiara Abraham, and dad Bijou Abraham celebrating his graduation from UC Davis.
Top left: Tanishq Abraham with Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Frederick Lawrence
Hoda Fakhari is a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in biochemistry and English. She became a member of Phi Beta Kappa during her junior year. The University of Illinois at Chicago is home to the Iota of Illinois Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.