Sho Yano’s résumé reads like the personal ad of every Mensa woman’s dreams: 200-plus IQ, recent honors graduate of Loyola University, about to start dual M.D.-Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago. Reads epic poetry; plays piano works by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. Black belt in tae kwon do. Life goal: to be a cancer geneticist.
One minor problem: He’s 12.
Next month Yano will become the youngest person ever to attend graduate or professional school at Chicago, one of the nation’s most selective universities. This real-life Doogie Howser is also a master of understatement. “It’s just fun learning,” Yano says.
Maybe it was the homeschooling he received from his father, Katsura, 40, a Japanese-born shipping executive, and his Korean-born mother, Kyung, 45. When the family relocated from Palos Verdes, Calif., to Chicago, Yano entered Loyola—at 9. “Kids would yell at him to go back to elementary school,” says Kyung. But the biology major earned a 3.9 grade average—and a measure of popularity, though, notes senior Lisa Kang, 22, “he is 12. It’s not like you can say, ‘We’re going to the bars. Want to come with?’ ”
Indeed, Yano was accepted into the University of Chicago medical program only after careful psychological screening. “How could you hold him back?” asks Michelle LeBeau, chair of the cancer biology committee. Yano will live at home with his parents and sister Sayuri, 6 (who plays piano and violin). If all goes on schedule, he won’t see a patient until he’s a doddering 17 or 18. But Yano’s attitude is totally Zen. “This program is perfect for me,” he says. “I should be fine.”