17-Year-Old to Earn Engineering Degree at UT Dallas
For Young Student, Bachelor's in Engineering is One Step in a Multi-Degree Plan
May 16, 2012
Aaron Kotamarti will receive his bachelor's degree in engineering this weekend, just weeks after turning 17.
A couple of months ago, 17-year-old Aaron Kotamarti snagged his driver’s license. On Friday, he’ll collect his bachelor’s degree in engineering from The University of Texas at Dallas.
Kotamarti, who has traveled an academic fast track his whole life, doesn’t expect to slow down after the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science commencement ceremony. If things go according to plan, he’ll be completing his medical degree by the time he’s old enough to celebrate with a glass of champagne.
Before that, he is on track to complete a bachelor’s degree in biology by next spring, and has already started a master’s program in electrical engineering.
Obviously, Kotamarti’s academic advancement started early. He took calculus classes at Richardson High School while still attending Richardson’s Westwood Junior High School.
“There are a lot of smart kids in high school, but if they are not challenged, they become bored and their drive for success can be drained away,” Kotamarti said.
His mother, Sharon Kotamarti, enrolled Aaron in Texas Tech University distance education courses to feed his appetite for knowledge. He finished Calculus 3 and Differential Equations by the time he was 14.
Aaron Kotamarti talks about life on the academic fast track.
She said ever since he was little, Aaron has been a thinker.
“You can see how his eyes were deep in thought with ideas rolling quickly through his mind,” she said. “When he was about age 12, he would take a Rubik’s Cube and dazzle us. In less than a minute he would put the puzzle together all the while applying algorithms to solve it.”
Aaron completed his associate’s degree in electrical engineering from Richland College in May 2010, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. He then started at UT Dallas at age 15.
Here, he uses his affection for math and science to pursue his interests in biology and engineering.
“Math is attractive because of the way it can describe the reality of physics and biology,” he said. “At UT Dallas, there is room to explore different types of engineering courses, its application to biology and other fields like nanotechnology.”
Aaron has been volunteering at the clinical research center at Medical City Dallas hospital for the past two years. He plays the electric guitar and piano to relax and unwind. His mom describes him as playful, funny, humble and most grateful for what he learns.
“He is happy that he is gaining this knowledge because it enables him to appreciate and understand better how things work in nature,” she said. “So his knowledge is enriching his life.”
As part of a senior project, Aaron and a team of students designed a device that will alert the hearing-impaired in disaster or emergency. Dr. Murat Torlak, associate professor of electrical engineering, taught the class.
“Aaron seems to always have a clear mind,” Torlak said. “He is mature and engaging, and when I ask a technical question he is very alert and gets to the point directly. I can tell he knows his stuff.”
Even with a heavy load at school, Aaron still manages to have a social life that involves jamming with other guitarist friends and going to rock concerts and movies. Though he now lives at home, he said he may move on campus for his master’s degree.
Kotamarti’s parents, Joshua and Sharon, met while both worked at Nortel Networks in Canada. Sharon was a computer scientist for Nortel for 13 years, and has been a full-time mother for the past 10. Joshua is now a systems engineer at Raytheon, where he’s worked for seven years.
Aaron’s older brother Kevin, 21, also graduated from UT Dallas, with a degree in electrical engineering in 2010. Now in medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Kevin graduated from high school at 16. Their mom said the success of her sons can be attributed to their hard work, ambition, and determination, as well as a nurturing and supportive environment at home.
“I think every child has great potential,” she said. “They just need the support, love and guidance of family.”
April Liang, an academic advisor for the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science who assisted both of Kotamarti brothers, said there is room for any gifted person at UT Dallas.
“We have a very strong program at UT Dallas, and we have many talented and outstanding students in the Jonsson School,” she said. “We’ll keep up the good work we’re doing, and we hope that we will have more students like Aaron and Kevin. I enjoyed working with them both.”
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