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A doctorate degree by age eighteen?

11-year-old PSEO student Lucas Kramer plans to graduate with an undergraduate degree in a few years.
11-year-old PSEO student Lucas Kramer shakes hands with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler Thursday Sept. 22 in Coffman Union.
Image by Mark Vancleave
11-year-old PSEO student Lucas Kramer shakes hands with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler Thursday Sept. 22 in Coffman Union.

Professor Amanda Long thought Lucas KramerâÄôs mom was one of her chemistry students when the pair came to office hours.

ItâÄôs a common reaction to the 11-year-old student, who attends the University of Minnesota as a PSEO student.

âÄúI was blown away,âÄù said Long, LucasâÄôs chemistry professor.

ItâÄôs an easy mistake to make, since his mom, who makes the one-hour drive to campus with him every day, accompanies him to class.

âÄúI think that speaks volumes for the level of involvement on the parentsâÄô part, simply because they somehow have the ability to be that present in the studentâÄôs life,âÄù Long said.

While most kids his age are studying in sixth grade, Lucas is almost finished with high school and spends most of his time on a college campus.

A typical Thursday for Lucas starts with a trip to church before his biology lecture. He hangs out in Coffman Union eating lunch, napping or reading a book he picked up at the library for âÄúfunâÄù âÄî a book on the chemical property called Aromaticity.

He has a material science seminar at 2:15 p.m. and a long wait until his chemistry lab starts in the evening. HeâÄôll walk the Washington Avenue Bridge over to West Bank on his way home with his mom. By the time he is ready for bed, itâÄôs already 11 p.m.

Ahead of the pack

Angela Kramer said her son Lucas hit developmental milestones early.

âÄúHeâÄôs always had that drive and excitement to learn things,âÄù she said.

Lucas could identify letters by 7 or 8 months, read three-letter words before age 2 and read college-level books before age 5, she said.

âÄúWe just kept going with it and then I knew that he couldnâÄôt go to school,âÄù Angela said.

Lucas, who was homeschooled until age 7, has been ahead of the pack his whole life. He said he only has a couple English courses left to graduate high school, which he hasnâÄôt taken yet so he can continue to enroll PSEO at the University.

Through the Minnesota Virtual Academy, which he has been involved with since he was 8, Lucas has completed classes like Advanced Placement Calculus and Biology. He said he continued with MNVA until he âÄúexhausted all those courses.âÄù

Lucas said he really enjoys science and technology classes.

ItâÄôs common for PSEO juniors to have a 13-credit maximum, like Lucas does, said Danielle Tisinger, who works with PSEO in the College of Continuing Education.

âÄúGet your feet wet before you jump in,âÄù Tisinger said.

Lucas plans to major in either chemical engineering or material science after he takes PSEO as far as it can go.

âÄúWe donâÄôt really have many plans for the distant future,âÄù Lucas said.

He does, however, want to earn his doctorate âÄî something he could accomplish before his 18th birthday.

âÄúWe just take one day at a time,âÄù Angela said. âÄúWe always say wherever God opens the door, we donâÄôt know how itâÄôll work or how things will happen, but He just does.âÄù

Lucas eventually wants to attend the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas once heâÄôs old enough to study to become a priest.

âÄúItâÄôs such a great vocation âÄî you can help and serve so many others,âÄù Lucas said.

While he isnâÄôt involved with any on-campus activities yet, Lucas said he is heavily involved in his church through activities like Bible study and volunteering. He often hangs out with the children who are also homeschooled there.

Opportunities abound

Being at the University isnâÄôt his first experience in college courses, but it does have the largest classes heâÄôs experienced.

In spring 2011, Lucas took a physics course at Augsburg College.

âÄúIt was fun watching him help the 20-year-olds with his modern physics,âÄù Angela said. âÄúThat I get a kick out of.âÄù

Lucas is categorized as profoundly gifted by the Davidson Institute, an organization that recognizes gifted people under the age of 18 and sets them up with mentors, provides free educational materials and holds seminars.

Angela said itâÄôs amazing to see the opportunities and experiences her son has had thus far.

Earlier this year, Lucas, who was fascinated by meteorology at the time, was able to visit with Patrick Hammer, a meteorologist at KSTP TV.

While Hammer meets with many kids, he said he remembers Lucas for being so focused.

âÄúI only hope my kids are as driven at 11 as he is,âÄù Hammer said.

Lucas said coming to the University wasnâÄôt a âÄúbig shockâÄù to him. The large classes became less daunting after he got to know some of the other students in his classes.

He said he will probably finish PSEO in spring 2013, at which point he said he will continue taking classes at the University for a few years. He said he might take a variety of classes âÄújust to try and find what my interests are really before I start going.âÄù 

 âÄúNo point in sitting on the couch eating Cheetos,âÄù Angela said. âÄúYou might as well do something good with your time.âÄù

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