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Young grad student finds MIT about what he expected

At an age when many students are college freshmen or sophomores, David Deakins has begun his graduate studies at MIT after earning a bachelor of science degree from Colorado State University in a year.

Mr. Deakins, 19, is enrolled in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, where he will work toward a master's degree in the field of applied plasma physics. After that, he said, his career plans are "totally open-ended" and could include either further studies, research or "working with people" in some capacity, such as teaching.

In any event, he said, he plans to return to Fort Collins, CO. He moved there with his family four years ago after growing up in Houston, TX, and graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1993 as valedictorian of his class.

His father is a retired chief financial officer for an oil tools firm and his mother is a physical therapist. He has an older brother who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M, and a younger sister just starting high school.

Mr. Deakins had taken Colorado State University courses while in high school and he received his degree in computer science from the university in 1994.

"School was never a big strain on me," Mr. Deakins told the Associated Press. "God made me in a way that things just click, especially with physics. I had this track of all these things I was going to invent and discover. I'm probably a problem solver at heart."

Mr. Deakins, who wrote a basic computer program as a second-grader, said that his academic talents eventually left him somewhat unfulfilled.

"There's a point to knowledge but it gets to be too much," he told the AP. "There was this point where I got really disillusioned. I was so independent, I just didn't want to get involved with other people. It was hollow. Everyone has this whiz kid image. It's easy to kind of get isolated from people."

That changed, Mr. Deakins said, when he joined a Christian fellowship group at Colorado State University and learned to socialize.

"You don't have to know a lot to help people. You just have to want to. That's the tack I like to take and who knows where that will take me. School was my thing. Now people are."

Mr. Deakins, who is living in Ashdown House, has received a fellowship for his first semester at MIT and will have an assistantship in the second semester, he said. He hopes to receive his degree in December of 1995 or May of 1996.

He enjoys athletics and is an avid mountain-biker, but for the moment his main extra-curricular activity is "meeting people."

MIT is about what he expected it to be, he said, "a good school with smart students" and a place where his own academic accomplishments aren't "as big a deal."

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 5).

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